What is Silicone and is it a Safe Substitute for Plastics?

Having purchased my beautiful Joco Cup, which has a silicone lid and a silicone gripper around the cup, I began to wonder about what was in this material I was sipping from as well as what would happen at the end of its life.  Say, I clumsily break my cup, for example?  Typical of moi.  What do I do with those parts?  Should those of us wanting to make the best decisions for our health and the environment readily choose silicone as an alternative to plastic?  

Is it safe...

For the environment:

Silicone is a combo of silicon, which comes from quartz, and hydrocarbons.  These hydrocarbons come from fossil sources like petroleum or natural gas, which, as I'm sure you're aware, is not without its criticisms, but I won't get into that here.  

For our health:

Silicone is considered to be more inert that plastic, which means that it is less likely to leach into your food, especially if you make sure to use food grade silicone.


Essentially, what I discovered is that, if you buy products made of silicone or with silicone parts, you should know where you can recycle it.  It is super hard to do! Recyclebank, which is a reward-based recycling program for cities and companies, refers customers to Terracycle for disposal of silicone products or recommends cutting up your silicone in ways that allow you to use it for other purposes.  Through Terracycle, you can pay for a box to collect your waste and send back to them for recycling.  My understanding is that they will make the silicone into new products.  I contacted them in order to learn more about their process for recycling silicone specifically,  but received a generic response back regarding what they do with all of the waste received in their Zero Waste Box.  

My conclusion:

I think that from here on out, I am going to try to limit the purchasing of any silicone products.  The key will be maintaining and taking good care of the silicone products I already own in order to avoid having them break down and therefore avoid the need for recycling.  What may serve as a better alternative?  I'm not sure.    

Here's what Joco Cup has to say about silicone parts used in their reusable mug: 

"We use a high-grade silicone for both the lid and sleeve. Our silicone is also produced at our factory in China. It is a premium material that is non-porous and completely free of all harmful chemicals, including BPF and BPS which are commonly found in BPA-free “safe” plastics. The silicone is easy to clean and, like our glasses, is dishwasher, microwave and oven safe. Our silicone has been tested and is compliant to the most stringent international regulations – LFGB, REACH, EU and FDA....Keep the silicone part you can re-use that and order a new glass replacement (in the event the glass breaks)."

Here are some of the resources I used as well as a little info for how to maintain your silicone products:

Life Without Plastics, SF Gate, Recyclebank

Maintaining:  The Kitchn, The Spruce

Recycling: Terracycle, Recyclebank


What are your thoughts on silicone?