Most of us love plastic products due to the material’s cost-effectiveness and convenience.
Unfortunately, the adverse effect of plastic on the environment is alarming. Plastic waste pollutes the air, water, and soil with toxins.
Besides, the harsh chemicals often found in plastic products are detrimental to the health of animals and humans.
The good news is that more people are taking notice of the negative effects of plastic and are looking for safer alternatives.
One such good alternative to plastic is food-grade silicone. Bpa free silicone is not only safe for food use, but it’s also lightweight, odorless, and can withstand extreme temperatures.
Wonder “is silicone zero waste?” and want to learn more about silicone and why it’s gaining popularity over plastic?
So Why Choose Silicone Over Plastic?
Before we get into why you should choose silicone over plastic, we want to shed light on an often asked question.
Is silicone a type of plastic?
The short answer to this question is no. Silicon isn’t a type of plastic.
Plastic is a synthetic polymer that always includes carbon and hydrogen. On the other hand, silicone comes from the material which is derived from heating naturally occurring silica at very high temperatures.
However, silicone is flexible, malleable, water-resistant, and heat-resistant, just like plastic.
Nevertheless, there are a few good reasons you should select silicone over plastic.
Is Silicone Safer Than Plastic?
One good reason silicon is better than plastic is that it’s much safer for the environment.
Silicone, unlike plastic, is made from the naturally occurring substance called silica. The process of heating silica to silicon is less environmentally damaging than sourcing raw materials for manufacturing plastic.
Further, silicone is more ocean-friendly compared to plastic, as it doesn’t break down into small pieces when lost in the ocean.
Besides, silicone items can be reused repeatedly, compared to most single-use plastic products.
Does Silicone Have BPA?
Another great reason to choose silicone over plastic is that the first doesn’t have chemical fillers such as BPA and BPS that often react with foods and drinks to produce toxic fumes.
Silicone is also safe to use for food-grade applications as it’s odorless, hypoallergenic, stain-resistant, and it can also be heated or frozen without losing its shape.
Silicone also resists aging for decades, which decreases human reliance on plastic.
What Is Food Grade Silicone?
Food grade silicone is a non-toxic and environmentally-friendly form of silicon used for many purposes in the food and beverage sector.
The BPA-free silicone is FDA approved, meaning that it’s safe for contact with food.
Food Grade Silicone Applications
Food grade silicone is mostly used in the food and beverage manufacturing and processing industry.
Despite its use in the manufacture of food packaging, packing, and holding materials, most people often wonder, is silicone safe for food storage or is food grade silicone BPA free?
Since it complies with FDA standards, this type of silicone is BPA safe and safe for food storage.
Some of the common applications of the FDA approved food-grade silicone include:
- Silicone food storage containers and zip bags
- Baby pacifiers
- Food transfer tubing
- Antimicrobial belting
- Food and beverage gaskets and seals
- Cookware and bakeware
- Electrical insulators
- Commercial oven seals
- Vibration pads
How to Distinguish Food Grade Silicone and Ordinary Silicone?
During the manufacture of silicone, silica gel is divided into ordinary and food-grade silica gel. The latter is higher in quality and more expensive compared to regular silicone.
Unfortunately, some unscrupulous businesses will use ordinarily silica gel to manufacture food products to cut production costs. Such products are often harmful to human health, as they don’t meet food safety requirements.
Fortunately, just as there are ways to determine the difference between silicone and plastic, you can also distinguish between food-grade and ordinary silicone.
So, how do you differentiate between ordinary silicone and FDA-approved food-grade silicone?
The smell - Pick up the silicone item and smell it. Food-grade silica is odorless, while ordinary silicone will have a pungent odor. Although some new food-grade silicone products may have some odor, the smell goes away after some time.
The pull test - Hold the product with your hand and pull hard on both sides. Products made of ordinary silica gel will turn white when you pull. However, a food-grade silica product won’t show any whitish color when pulled
Touch - Food-grade silicone is very tough and smooth to touch. However, an ordinary silicone product will easily deform and feel rough to touch.
Benefits of Food-Grade Silicone
Other than being compliant with FDA guidelines, food-grade silicone has other benefits, some of which are highlighted below.
- BPA safe, which means it’s safe for food use
- High resistance to extreme temperatures and degradation
- Odorless and stain resistant
- Hypoallergenic, meaning it produces few allergic reactions compared to other materials
- It has a soft and smooth surface making it easy to clean
- Eco-friendly as it doesn’t peel, break or rot over time
- Lightweight and space-saving
- Durable and sustainable
- Non-porous, making it hygienic as it doesn’t have holes that can harbor harmful bacteria
- Non-stick, making it perfect for low fat and oil-free cooking
- Flexible such that it can survive falls and drops
- Degrades to large materials that are hard for marine, humans, and animals to digest
- Recyclable, allowing it to be reused countless times
Are There Any Downsides to Using Silicone?
Nothing is 100% perfect, including silicone.
However, the cons of silicone are few compared to its benefits, as highlighted below.
- Poor tear strength since the flexibility of the material makes it susceptible to tears, especially if it’s not handled carefully
- Silicon can melt if exposed to extremely high temperatures for too long
- For silicon to be recycled, it needs to undergo a unique recycling process
Is Silicone Biodegradable or Recyclable?
Another notable disadvantage of silicone is that it doesn’t decompose quickly. This is because the material is highly resistant to extreme weather and temperature conditions.
Now that you know that silicone isn’t highly biodegradable, you may be asking yourself, how long does it take for silicone to decompose?
And is silicone toxic when it isn’t recycled?
Well, if silicon isn’t recycled, it can stay between 50 and 500 years in the environment before it breaks down. However, the time silicon takes to decompose depends on the environment and the specific conditions it’s exposed to.
The good news is that silicon, unlike plastic, doesn’t break down into smaller pieces or microplastics when left in the environment. This makes the material safer for ocean life and animals. In fact, one study found out that silicone becomes more stable when it’s exposed to high temperatures and light.
Besides, when burned, silicon doesn’t release toxic chemicals into the environment.
Another great thing about silicone is that it's recyclable.
However, silicon needs to undergo a specialized recycling process to be correctly recycled. Most silicon products have to be sent to a special recycling center for effective recycling.
If you can’t find a special silicone recycler near your home, you always try to upcycle your old silicone products. To repurpose your silicone containers, grind them up and then add fresh silicone to the ground products. Set your mixture in a mold and cure it to produce a new, more durable product.
You can also grate old silicon and reuse it as playground mulch. Old silicone mats can also serve as storage materials for dirty items, as they’re easy to clean.
In closing, silicon is an excellent alternative to plastics. It’s more eco-friendly, durable, ocean-friendly, and heat and water-resistant.
However, as noted, it’s essential to ensure you buy food-grade silicon products for food use as they’re more food safe.