Is silicone environmentally friendly?

So… let’s finally chat silicone. First, an important distinction – silicone is different from silicon. Where silicon is a naturally occurring chemical element (the 14th on the periodic table if you can remember the song!) used to form things like bricks, glass and concrete, silicone is a synthetic substance – a plastic mix of synthetic rubbers and synthetic plastic polymers. It does contain silica (which is derived from sand) but it also uses fossil fuels.⁠

While it’s great for being light and collapsible, we’re increasingly concerned with the fad of silicone usage in lower/zero waste products. Silicone endures extreme fluctuations in temperatures – from very cold to oven hot – without melting or cracking. It’s pretty great for this. It is also much more durable than plastics and as such longer-lasting in the environment.⁠

Though it is technically recyclable, it is rarely accepted by curbside recycling programs. Some specialist facilities exist but not in most councils or boroughs across the world. We’ve actually had a few little quips back and forth with brands who advertise on their sites and product packaging that it’s entirely recyclable but when we ask to provide where they can recycle it they aren’t able to offer any facilities and admit it rarely can be.⁠

That’s ok, we’re not at a perfect circular economy in any way at all; but just be clear about that and don’t greenwash the advertising.

Silicone is super handy for some things and will continue to be used, but this shouldn’t be where we stop. We don’t need to jump on it for absolutely everything – there are already better options and over time technology will create other alternatives too. Looking into recycling facilities along with better plastic recycling abilities isn’t a terrible idea either.