Silicone is a pretty amazing material from a consumer standpoint. It’s a fantastic heat-resistant polymer used for and as many things, including:
- As an adhesive.
- As a lubricant.
- In medicine (as implants, catheters, contact lenses, etc.).
- In cooking utensils.
- For thermal and electric insulation.
It’s flexible and has little to no toxicity, making it a solid alternative to similar materials that may not be as useful or as healthy.
But what impact does silicone have on the environment? Is it good or bad for the planet? We aim to answer these questions and more in this article. By the end of it, you’ll know everything you need to know about silicone and its influence on the environment.
Let’s get started!
Is Silicone Biodegradable? What You Should Know.
Let us first answer the big question.
Is Silicone Biodegradable?
No, silicone is not biodegradable. This is because of it’s composition. Silicone is a polymer made up of siloxane, a colorless and rubber-like material. This material is highly resistant to both high and low temperatures, repels water, and even resist UV degradation. It’s highly durable and can’t be consumed by bacteria, making it non-biodegradable.
Silicone can take over 500 years to biodegrade. That’s how durable it’s designed to be.
This durability isn’t a bad thing from a consumer standpoint. You will generally want your products to be durable and able to last long periods.
But this material seems to be able to last as long as plastic. Does that mean it’s just as bad for the environment as plastic?
Let’s address that in the next question.
Is Silicone Eco-Friendly?
Believe it or not, silicone is generally considered to be eco-friendly by many activists. This is because while silicone is highly durable and can last a long time, it’s pretty inert as a material and has little impact on the environment it’s in, both for plants and animals.
Silicone is closer to rubber than it is to plastic. It’s both odorless and non-toxic, and it doesn’t contain problematic chemicals like BPA or phthalates. When we say “inert”, we mean that toxins don’t leach out of silicone and go into the environment.
There’s nothing in Silicone that could even do that.
You might think that the fact that silicone doesn’t break down makes it a problem for the environment, but this isn’t really the case.
Don’t get us wrong. We wouldn’t want you to think that it’s okay to toss silicone products into your local park. It’s always better to practice reducing, reusing, and recycling before anything else.
That said, the fact that silicone doesn’t decompose is actually a benefit. Let’s compare it to plastic to understand why.
Is Silicone Better Than Plastic?
Silicone is way better than plastic. Here’s why.
Plastic is also non-biodegradable. However, plastic is vulnerable to being broken down by environmental factors. It can also be torn to pieces and consumed by animals.
Either way, plastic breaks down into micro-plastics, which can be consumed and potentially cause health problems for animals. And when we consume those creatures, that plastic ends up back in our diets.
Plastic also tends to be made with chemicals linked to damaging the liver, kidneys, lungs, and reproductive system. BPA and phthalates are the big two that you should be on the lookout for.
Silicone will not fragment as plastic does. It’s too durable and hardy. Animals will not be able to consume silicone, meaning that it won’t end up in their diets or ours. This is especially great for marine animals, as they are the ones who are most likely to be exposed to silicone.
And since it’s non-toxic (no BPA or phthalates), there’s no danger of these chemicals going into the soil and eventually ending up back in our systems.
While it would be preferable to have a material that can biodegrade without poisoning the environment, silicone is a close second as an eco-friendly material.
Is Silicone Recyclable?
Yes, silicone is 100% recyclable. Unfortunately, there are not many waste management companies that will take silicone.
This is because people tend to consume silicone with polyurethane. While silicone is recyclable, polyurethane is not. This is because polyurethane is an organic material that will actually break down over time, unlike the inorganic silicone.
They are mostly functionally similar, but silicone lasts a lot longer than polyurethane. In exchange, polyurethane can be used for things that silicone cannot, such as being able to be painted over.
Recycling companies would rather not have to deal with the hassle of finding out whether or not a product is made from silicone or polyurethane, so they usually decline to take both.
That said, always check with your local waste management companies. They may or may not take silicone. The policies are different for every company.
If you want to recycle silicone at home and create new silicone products, then this company offers a step-by-step guide on how to do just that.
But if you are just interested in dropping off your silicone products, you’ll have to reach out to your local recycling center.
Is Silicone Compostable?
Silicone is not compostable. Silicone will not break down in a compost bin because it’s not biodegradable. It will just sit there and exist for hundreds of years, the same as if you would have thrown it into the ocean.
Simply put, there are no bacteria or other organisms that can feed on silicone and quickly break it down into natural materials.
It’s like trying to tow a large boulder with a bicycle.
There is no benefit to placing silicone in a compost bin like with water beads, either.
You are better off recycling silicone or reusing it as long as you can. Once you are absolutely done with it, you may simply toss it into the trash.
Is Silicone Toxic Or Bad For You?
No, silicone is non-toxic and won’t harm you at all. There is a reason why food-grade silicone exists; it’s a strong alternative to plastic and is much safer due to the lack of BPA and phthalates.
It’s also far more ocean-friendly since it won’t break down into micro-plastics, meaning that creatures of the deep won’t consume it.
Silicone is also more durable and temperature resistant than plastic is. Having products molded out of silicone is like putting a guarantee of quality on a product.
Silicone is the opposite of harmful, really. It’s one of the few synthetic materials that are both useful for us and relatively harmless to the environment.
Bonus: What About Silicone In Hair Care Products?
There is one instance where silicone may not be wanted, however. And that’s in hair care products.
Silicone is often put in hair care products. It’s designed to coat the hair and lock in moisture, give hair that silky feel, and reduce unwanted frizz. People worry that silicone will damage their hair over time, or worse.
It’s true that silicone derivatives like amodimethicone and dimethicone can build up in hair, resulting in a dry feel and duller appearance. Your hair can also become weaker and vulnerable to breakage when too much silicone is present.
They can also be difficult to remove if they are not water-soluble. So what’s the solution?
Try using products that contain Cyclomethicone instead. This is a lighter, water-soluble form of silicone that’s much easier to wash out.
As for removing silicone that’s already been built up, a few washes with a clarifying shampoo should be more than enough to remove it.
You can also use hair care products that are silicone-free. And we mean truly silicone-free; you are going to have to check the ingredients list to confirm this.
Don’t just believe products that claim they are silicone-free. Companies can do this as long as they don’t include certain kinds of silicone in their product; other kinds of silicone can still be present.
We can’t stress this enough. Always make sure to check!
Alright, let’s go over the key points for this article:
- Silicone is not biodegradable.
- Silicone is recyclable.
- Silicone is not compostable. Please don’t even try.
- Silicone is non-toxic, extremely durable, and fairly eco-friendly.
- Silicone derivatives are harmless in hair care products, though some negative effects can be attributed to excessive build-up. There ways to treat this and get around it, however.
Silicone isn’t biodegradable, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad for the environment. While it won’t break down anytime soon, it also won’t poison the environment or decompose into harmful micro-plastics.
Overall, silicone is a pretty amazing material. It’s rare that a synthetic material turns out to not be completely awful for the environment. We hope that as time goes on, we continue to create more materials like silicone.
Heck, maybe we could even make a material like silicone that’s biodegradable someday. You never know till you try!
That concludes our article! Now you can spread the word!
Or you can just send them to this article 😉 .
Questions, comments, concerns, or just wanna chat? Leave a comment below and we’ll get right back to you. We’d love to hear from you all. Seriously, we would!
If you like this article, check out some of our others too:
- Is Gum Biodegradable? The Sticky Truth Revealed.
- Is Paper Biodegradable? The Answer May Surprise You…
- Is Cardboard Biodegradable? Everything You Need To Know.
- Is Latex Biodegradable? What You Need To Know.
- Is “It” Biodegradable? Easy Cheat Sheet for Popular Products
- Is Glass Biodegradable? The Answer is Definitely Surprising.
- Are Orbeez (Water Beads) Biodegradable? Not What You Would Expect.
As always, thanks for reading! We appreciate you stopping by!
Let’s all continue to strive for a greener, better way of living!