Silicone is a remarkable material with many uses. Sealant, lubricants, insulation and medicine are just some of the things that can be made with silicone.
But is silicone biodegradable and is our use of this substance negatively affecting the environment?
What is Silicone?
Silicone or polysiloxane is a polymer made of siloxane. Silicone is usually colorless and takes the form of oil or rubber-like substances.
Think of silicone as a hybrid between synthetic rubbers and synthetic plastic polymers.
Silicone can be both a liquid such as silicone lubricant spray as well as a solid like breast implants.
Is Silicone Biodegradable?
No, silicone is not biodegradable. The properties that make silicone desirable are the same properties that prevent it from biodegrading.
Silicone is resistant to high and low temperatures, repels water, and will resist UV degradation. Silicone is very durable and cannot be consumed by bacteria or microbes.
Silicone would take over 500 years to biodegrade because it is designed to last.
This level of durability is great for us but not so good for the environment.
Is Silicone Eco Friendly?
Unfortunately, silicone is produced from the hydrocarbons found in petrochemicals. As we know, petroleum is bad for the environment as it is mined from non-renewable resources.
Silicone is also difficult to recycle with only a handful of recycling centres able to process it.
On the plus side, the durability of silicone means that we use it for longer which means less of it being disposed of than other materials such as plastic.
Is Silicone Better Than Plastic?
Silicone is better than plastic because it is more environmentally friendly.
Silicone is more durable which means that it isn’t broken down into smaller pieces like plastic is. These small pieces of plastic are known as microplastics and end up in the ocean being consumed by fish. Plastic pollution pollutes our water and contaminates our food.
Plastic is also made with chemicals which have been linked with liver and kidney damage as well as damage to the lungs and the reproductive system. BPA and phthalates are the two main chemicals with the most potential to cause harm.
Silicone won’t fragment like plastic does. This makes it less likely to come into contact with animals. This is more important for marine animals, as they are most likely to be exposed to silicone.
Silicone is not biodegradable and cannot be composted. Silicone is recyclable but finding somewhere to recycle silicone can be difficult.
If you have silicone to dispose of, we suggest getting in contact with your local waste facility for advice. They will ask for more detail on the type of silicone you have and tell you how to dispose of it safely.