Of all the materials available for avoiding the use of plastic on a daily basis, the most similar would be silicone.
Silicone is a flexible and durable material made up of silicon, oxygen and hydrogen atoms. This makes it a perfect alternative to plastic for use in dummies/pacifiers, bottle teats and female personal products such as the menstrual cup.
Of course the benefits of high quality medical silicone are many.
In fact, over the last few months we have read various articles that go even a step further claiming that silicone is biodegradable. They even confirm that you can bury your menstrual cup in the garden together with your other organic waste once it has reached the end of its useful life.
But we want to let you know something… this is categorically false.
WHY SILICONE IS NOT BIODEGRADABLE
The term “biodegradable” is made up of two parts: “bio” (referring to life) and “degradable”
(meaning it can be converted into a more basic elements). Thereby a biodegradable material is one which can be broken down by living organisms until it can be reincorporated into nature again.
For example, this is what would happen to a banana peel after a few weeks underground.
But this does not happen to silicone. In fact, if you threw your menstrual cup onto the compost heap or burried it in your garden, not only will it take decades to breakdown (imagine your reaction if in 25 years time you decide to plant a veggie patch and discover your old but intact menstrual cup), but it will also never become one with nature.
Therefore we cannot say that it is biodegradable. Although it does have other advantages.
SILICONE IS AN INERT LOW-IMPACT MATERIAL
Quite the opposite to plastic, high grade silicone is inert. That is to say it does not give off toxins. So, if a silicone product ends up in nature, after a few decades is will break down into small particles that are harmless to the environment. Which is a huge advantage when compared to plastic.
Despite this silicone is still a waste product that requires appropriate treatment at the end of its useful life. Currently there are few places that can recycle them, therefore the best thing to do is to take it to your closest recycling centre so that they can dispose of it in the correct manner.
SO, IS SILICONE BETTER THAN PLASTIC?
Let’s say yes, BUT only for situations in which you cannot use other more sustainable materials. High grade silicone is the less bad alternative to plastic because:
- It is safer for the earth and for human life: as it does not give off dangerous toxins into the environment. In fact, the Canadian Health Department states on its website that there are no known health hazards associated with the use of silicone cookware, unlike those made of plastic.
- It avoids the use of tonnes of disposable products: one single menstrual cup can save the environment from the disposal of kilos of sanitary pads and tampons during its lifetime.
- It is more durable and much stronger than plastic: it can endure radiation, salinity and extreme temperatures, therefore when it ends up exposed to the elements in nature it doesn’t break up as easily as plastic.
- It doesn’t give off toxic gases when incinerated: if incinerated in waste treatment plants, silicone only gives off silicon, carbon dioxide and water vapour, in comparison with the toxic gases generated by burning plastics.
Therefore silicone, if it is high grade, is the less bad solution. But you can also find even greener options for certain products.
For example, if your little one is not allergic to rubber/latex, you could opt for 100% biodegradeable natural rubber dummies. You can also avoid reusable silicone freezer bags by using glass jars or stainless steel containers. Stainless steel bottles are also a good alternative to glass flasks with silicone covers.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Now that you know that silicone is not biodegradable, and you are aware of the benefits of this material when compared to plastic, we would love to hear your opinion: Do you use silicone products? Or do you prefer other alternatives? Let us know in the comments section.
If you would like to know more tricks and tips about how to reduce plastic in your daily life, don’t hesitate to join our community fighting for a plastic-free world.
15 thoughts on “IS SILICONE BIODEGRADABLE? ALL YOUR QUESTIONS ON THIS TOPIC ANSWERED IN ONE SINGLE POST”
Is it possible to have a container leak-proof without a silicone ring?
very interesting article, but does not cover ALL of the questions. You forgot to mention the oceans. As so much plastic is getting into them and you can read about that problem almost daily, I´m very surprised you didn´t bring it up at all.
What is better for bakeware? Silicone, or metal or glass pans? How about the teflon ones? Other coatings? I’m trying to buy bread pans today.
I vote against the use of silicone. I used bee’s wax wraps for covering bowls or use a plate as a lid. If it can not become compost then it does not make good long term sense. For special limited medical uses I can see it’s worth. Silicone is being marketed to replace biodegradable kitchen products.
Thanks a lot for sharing your point of view. It is very interesting reflexion and we share your opinion. Best regards.
You forgot to say that production of silicone requires an immense amount of temperature in ovens that are never turned off, consuming an incredible amount of fuel. I’m sorry, but despite silicone being better than plastic, it is still far far away of being eco-friendly or sustainable.
Hi Vera, you are totally right. In the health point of view it is better sso it is interesting for some applications. But it is really not the best option in most cases. Thanks a lot for participating in our Blog. Best regards.
For years I avoided purchasing anything made from silicone because it seemed the claims were too good to be true. I gave it a try when I found a baking mat new in a thrift store. (at least I could keep it from going to the landfill). I eventually purchased a baking brush as well. So; to my question. You mention that silicone causes no adverse effects in the atmosphere when burned in waste facilities. Can I safely burn my silicone items in my wood-burning stove after their useful life is over? Thank you for your very informative article. And no, I will never knowingly purchase anything silicone again.
Hi, thanks a lot for your question. We do not recommend you to burn your silicone silicone item because if it does not spread toxins it creates a residue that could damage your wood-burning stove. We really recommend you to ask if there is any silicone recycling installation close to you. It cold be the right solution.
What about the silicones added to detergent to control foaming. They are at low concentrations <0.2% but replace fatty acids that would disappear naturally. Any thoughts?
Thank you for the article. I also vote AGAINST SILICONE…
Biodegradable is the ONLY solution to our waste crisis. Eventually everyone will toss their silicone items, and it’s much less likely that they’ll pay to have their silicone recycled at the hard-to-recycle facilities. 🙁
It may be healthier IN the household, but not healthier AT ALL for the environment. In fact, silicone is harder to biodegrade than many types of plastic… Meaning, many types of plastic are actually better for the plant than silicone is.
I read recently that silicone products often contain petrochemicals that can be harmful even in small doses. Still I prefer silicone to plastic, but try to use safer alternatives whenever possible, like glass, wood or cardboard.
Sounds like this person is funded by the Silicone industry ,far to many questions avoided about the sea and how silicon reacts to sea water, sounds like silicone is a good thing going by this company presentation yet we all know its not good at all hence why one suspects this posting was a paid for product…………………..Follow the funding
what are the byproducts of silicon when its recycled ?