Why is silicone better than plastic?

Silicone Oven Mitts

Did you know that about 40% of the ocean’s surface is covered in plastic?

In our demanding and hectic lives, many of us turn to plastic for its convenience and low cost. But plastic is full of damaging chemicals; plastic is choking the oceans and poisoning our food chain. Is the convenience of plastic really worth the cost to your health and the environment? Many people agree that it’s not worth it, but don’t know where to turn for a substitute.

Silicone has become a popular replacement for plastic. But many people are asking, “Is silicone better than plastic?”

The short answer to that question is, yes. But is it really that simple?

Plastic takes 500 years to decompose
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Is silicone more renewable than plastic?

Plastic is primarily made of carbon, which comes from fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas. In fact, in 2006, The Pacific Institute estimated that more than 17 million barrels of oil was used in production of plastic bottles.

Silicon, on the other hand, is made with silicon, which is primarily sourced from sand. Sand is formed as rocks erode and other organic materials break down. Quartz is major contributor to both sand and silicon. While sand is one of the most abundant resources on Earth, it takes thousands of years to replenish. Not to mention that mining anything, including sand takes its toll on the environment.

Sand & Shell
Photo by Olga Latiy on Unsplash

Is silicone is less toxic than plastic?

Yes! Silicone has been found to be far more stable than plastic. When heat is applied to plastic (like in your microwave), it breaks down and leaches chemicals (seriously, don’t use plastic when heating food in your microwave). In addition to bleeding toxins into your food, the heat damages the plastic so that it will need to be replaced sooner.

But Silicon is not perfect in this category either. Most common use tests have shown that Silicone does not break down in heat and does not bleed toxic chemicals. But a few studies have shown some low-level leaching of synthetic chemicals under some conditions.

The verdict? Silicone accessories are great, and you don’t need to worry about those. But if you’re concerned about toxins in your food, you may want to avoid silicone cookware and bakeware … and maybe food storage containers just to play it safe. (Although if you’re currently using plastic, silicone will be a great improvement in any of these areas!)

Silicone Oven Mitts

Silicone is more durable than plastic.

Period. This one’s not even a question. Any silicone product you buy will last much longer than its plastic counterpart. This means you can purchase and consume less, which is great for the Earth and for your bank account.

The other side of that coin is that silicone does take a long time to break down and biodegrade. But, and this is a big BUT, what silicone does not do is break into tiny, tiny pieces that fish will mistake for food and eat. That’s a really big plus in the ocean department. And when it does eventually degrade (well after our lifetime) it will return to its mostly harmless and non-toxic building blocks.

Silicone Phone Cases
Photo by Behar Zenuni on Unsplash

Is silicone more expensive than plastic?

Remember that thing we just talked about? The part where silicone will last longer and you can buy less? So yeah, maybe it’s a little more expensive upfront, but in the long run, it’s really much cheaper. Case closed.

In the end, silicone is not a perfect replacement for plastic. It’s certainly an improvement, and I would say that silicone really is better than plastic. But there’s got to be something better.

So go ahead and flash that silicone phone case with pride. Use your silicone oven mitts with joy. Just make sure you get as much use as you can, for as long as you can to help balance out the environmental impact.