What comes to mind when you hear the word silicone? Whether you’re new to the world of sustainability, or have been on your journey for years, you’ve likely heard of the material silicone – and may even be using it in your home. Due to its chemical properties and durability, silicone is giving plastic a run for its money. Join us as we breakdown what silicone is, why its better than plastic, and our favorite silicone products for any lifestyle!
Science of Silicone
So what’s the deal with silicone anyway? Silicone, a synthetic polymer, is crafted by the combination of several elements including silicon, the 14th element on the periodic table. Silicon is usually found as silica, an oxide of silicon and one of the main materials in sand. In order to create silicone, silicon atoms are isolated from the compound silica and this mixture is then heated to a very high temperature, up to 1800° C. The isolated silicone is combined with methyl chloride, and heated again, before being distilled into a polymerized siloxane called polydimethylsiloxane. They polymerize it again… and silicone is made.
If you’re into the science behind silicone, there is a lot of techniques, processes, and chemical reactions for you to dive into. But, for the purposes of this chat, we’ll keep it pretty simple. While natural rubber comes from latex trees, and traditional plastic comes from non-renewable petroleum oil, silicone comes from silica, which is commonly sourced from quartz sand. This makes silicone a “semi-renewable resource”! But due to the process that the silica goes through, it also means that silicone is not biodegradable at the end of its life.
Why Choose Silicone
Believe it or not, silicone is pretty cool (or maybe we’re just eco nerds!) Due to its chemical makeup, it can do tons of things that plastic, or even glass and metal, sometimes can’t.
- Thermal Stability: silicone is low and high heat resistant, and can handle extreme temperatures, from as low as -70°C to + 200°C. This makes it awesome for cooking and baking, and is microwave safe!
- Low chemical reactivity
- Repels water: it can repel water easily, which is great for making watertight seals and gaskets, as well as non-stick products
- Resistant to UV and Ozone
- Low toxicity: it is non-toxic, and high quality silicone contains no BPA, PVC, or BPS
- Microbiological growth: silicone does not support microbiological growth, so you don’t have to worry about mold or mildew forming on the silicone
This is just a portion of the awesome things about silicone! It is also great for electrical insulation, has low thermal conductivity, and so much more. High quality silicone products are oven safe, microwave safe, freezer safe, sous vide safe, dishwasher safe, you name it!
Another perk to silicone is even though it is not biodegradable at the end of its life, it also doesn’t break down into microscopic pieces like plastic does – commonly referred to as micro plastic pieces. When plastic breaks down into microplastics, they can be consumed by animals, collect in oceans and waterways, and overall cause damage to ecosystems. You can read all about microplastics here!
Although silicone is extremely durable, and will likely last you 10-20 years (depending on what it is being used for!), it still needs to be properly disposed of when the end of its life does come around. Because it isn’t biodegradable, which is great in terms of microplastic pollution, if it is tossed into the landfill, it won’t break down, and will sit there for hundreds of years. Instead, look for specialty recycling centers that are able to recycle silicone. Some companies, like Stasher, are offering take back programs for silicone. Stasher specifically takes un-usable silicone bags, and recycles them through partner Terracycle!
When looking for silicone products, it is important to look for high-quality, platinum grade, food-grade, or medical grade silicone. These won’t contain any toxic byproducts or fillers, ensuring you get 100% silicone with no nasty additives. Because silicone has so many different facets and features, it can be used in a ton of different products from cookware, to baby products, to travel gear, pet products, and beyond. Let’s dive into some of our favorites!
If there is one silicone product you need in your life, it’s the Stasher Bag. They’re made from platinum food-grade silicone, and they’re BPA free, phthalate free, latex free, BPS free… the list goes on and on. Their silicone bags come in a wide variety of sizes, colors, and shapes – and can be used in the microwave, oven, freezer, sous vide, and dishwasher. They’re durable, leakproof, and overall amazing. They’re great for use in the kitchen, or on-the-go, but they’re also awesome for toiletries as they won’t let anything spill or leak into your suitcase. Plus, Stasher has a recycling take back program, where they take damaged or unusable silicone bags and recycle them through Terracycle.
Let’s talk about silicone Food Huggers. They’ve come up with an amazing solution to preserve and store extra food, veggies, and fruit, without having to use a plastic alternative like cling wrap. The classic Food Huggers come in five different sizes in order to accommodate for all produce sizes, and they also have unique shapes and sizes for butter, avocados, and citrus. They even have silicone reusable bowl lids! Because silicone resists water, they help trap the moisture of the food, which keeps it fresher for longer. They’re also made from FDA Grade Silicone (and BPA free!), and are dishwasher, freezer, and microwave safe.
Baby + Kids Products
Green Sprouts makes a wide variety of sustainable baby products, but some of our favorites are their silicone based essentials. When it comes to kids products, it is extremely important their products are non-toxic – especially since it will probably be chewed on. Their teething rings come in a few varieties including Front + Side Teething, Classic Teething, Blankie, Cleaning Teething, and Molar Teething. The silicone is hypoallergenic, BPA and PVC free, and are durable enough for baby to chew on without any pieces breaking off. The silicone texture is also soft yet strong, and easy for small hands to grab on to. It can also go in any baby bottle sanitizer or dishwasher, making it easy to clean. Another silicone favorite of ours? Their silicone baby feeding products, including their Classic Feeding Baby Bowl, Learning Baby Bowl, Learning Baby Plate, and Silicone Tipped Spoons. As with all silicone products, they’re easy to clean, and won’t break during a messy mealtime.
When it comes to kids mealtime, it is important to encourage mealtime learning by allowing them to utilize their own utensils, cups, etc at a certain age! But, you also want to reduce messes, keep little ones safe…. and not end up with a bunch of broken dishes. ezpz utilizes silicone to make plates, bowls, spoons, and cups that are sized for small hands, while reducing clean up time for parents. Their signature silicone product is the Silicone Happy Mat, made from 100% food-grade silicone that is naturally unbreakable and toxin-free. It suctions to the table, making it hard to tip over or knock off. The plate is portion controlled as well! And as you are probably guessing, the silicone makes these plates oven, microwave, freezer, and dishwasher safe.
Personal Care + Wellness
Silicone is not only great for cooking and baking products, it is also great for everyday life! Menstrual cups make awesome use of this innovative and eco-friendly material. Two of our top choices are the DivaCup and the Saalt Cup! Unlike tampons or pads which can contain chemicals if they’re not made from organic cotton, using silicone in a menstrual cup ensures your period routine is 100% toxin-free. Studies on BPA exposure have shown that high levels of BPA could lead to hormone disruption and well as several other reproductive issues. Both brands of cups are made from medical-grade silicone, and can be reused for years, reducing waste and saving you money!
So, if you’re anything like us, you’re probably obsessed with silicone now. This non-plastic material is durable, sustainable, a somewhat renewable resource, and can be used in a wide variety of ways. From food storage, to personal care, and beyond, it can do nearly anything. But, always do your research on brands and products using high quality silicone, and ensure you keep it for years – then recycle it properly at the end of its life. To read more about silicone, check out our other blog here! Looking for more silicone products? Click here!