Silicone vs plastic – which is safer?

In recent years, silicones have become ubiquitous and are promoted as a safe alternative to plastic. There are significant advantages to using silicones, but it is important to be aware of the comparison to plastics.

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Silicone is used widely in everything from baby bottles to cookware and even cosmetics. They are also used in industrial contexts, including insulation, adhesives, lubricants and gaskets.


There is a mistaken belief amongst some people that silicone is a natural sand-derived material, but this is not the case. Silicones are somewhere between a synthetic rubber and synthetic plastic polymer and as such include chemical additives extracted from fossil fuels. The sand misunderstanding is because silica is the raw material used in the production of silicones and sand is essentially pure silica. When silica is heated to very high temperatures with carbon, silicon is made. This elemental silicon then reacts with fossil fuels, creating siloxane monomers; when bonded together, these form the final silicone resin.

The properties of silicones, or siloxanes, are similar to plastics. Silicones can be used for pliable items, similar to rubber and hard objects similar to plastics or dense but spreadable fluids. Similarly to plastics, they can be flexible, temperature-resistant, water-resistant and malleable. These properties also lend silicones to the industrial uses of silicone moulding, such as those found at They are also popular for kitchen and cookware uses as they can be formed into almost any shape, such as silicone bagel mounds, as reviewed in The Guardian.

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The quality of silicones is very variable and depends on how highly purified they are. The more purification, the better the quality. Silicones are generally considered safe for use with food and drink and are very stable. However, they are are not completely inert so there is a possibility of leaching and research into their safety continues.

Ocean safe

Silicone products tend to be more durable than their plastic counterparts and last much longer. They are considered much more ocean-friendly than plastic as it doesn’t degrade when exposed to the sun and sea like plastics do. There are limited opportunities for recycling, but it can be incinerated, which leaves just the harmless components of silica, water vapour and carbon dioxide. Under current research, silicones appear to be a more versatile, durable option than plastics.

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