Silicone vs. Plastic: What is the Difference?

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Introduction

Since the evolution of society into the digital age,

we have been exposed to products that are not natural.

For the current generation,

it is now not even a valid option to opt-out of using technological commodities given the time loop of their life and the requirements of this advanced age.

For ages, we have been using plastic as a major contractor for literally everything,

from storing things to carrying them;

wherever we set foot, we leave a residue of plastic.

With increasing awareness about the carbon footprint of plastic and its effects on the environment,

humanity is forced to ponder upon the possibility of any other alternatives to the plastic needs.

Why do we use plastic so much?

There is a reason behind the fact that we are a generation that depends on plastic commodities in our everyday life.

Basically, this is because of the fact that plastic is disposable, easy to handle, and cheap.

It has been successful in dominating the cultures where it is impossible to carry around permanent and fragile objects.

Why should we not use plastic?

There are some situations where plastic has inevitably made its mark and cannot be relieved off of its duty any time soon.

But with the increasing realization that the after-effects of our limited luxury have worsened the living conditions of the planet and obliterated many bionic habitats at an alarming rate is worrisome.

Alternative to Plastic

With the passing time, the evolution of science, and awakening of the moral compasses of the people involved in the destruction of the habitat,

Luckily, we have found multiple other solutions and materials to use in exchange for plastic.

One of the most prominent materials right now is silicone,

and it has been quite a rave for some time now. But the real question here is:

Is it really worth it switching to another product entirely?

Will it bring the necessary improvement without causing further damage?

Let’s take a look at the differences between plastic and silicone so that you’d know better!

Chemical Make-up of Silicone & Plastic

The basic building material of any object is the chemical elements;

We all studied in our elementary chemistry, joining together through different inter-linkage bonds.

The complexity of the bonding and the end product of the reaction is the by-product we generally use in our day to day life,

And it is the strength of these bonds upon which the degradation process depends.

To understand better and have a clearer look at the real difference between plastic and silicone,

We need to take a deeper look at their basic building materials.

Silicone

Silicone is basically a siloxane, which means it is a mixture of silicon and oxygen,

Which are common constituents of sand with the addition of an organic group such as alkyls or phenyls etc.

The consistency of siloxane is liquid or semi-solid in its concentrated form so that it can be molded into different products,

but hardness can be induced by the addition of some other chemical synthetics.

The products made up of silicone that we use in day to day life have varying consistency and chemical depending upon the condition they are supposed to be subjected to,

but the basic chemistry must include a silica and oxygen atom.

The commercial use of silicone is a polymer,

Which means it is made up of little monomers of siloxanes with synthetic compounds that may or may not be toxic, depending upon their usage.

The plot which makes silicone products questionable is that the commercial silicone products are called a mixture of synthetic plastic and synthetic rubber,

basically a hybrid of these two materials.

So, containing elements that are naturally plastic will or will not make silicone products have the same level of contaminants for the environment?

Benefits of Using Silicone

On the contrary, silicone has a different impact on the planet;

Firstly, silicone lasts much longer in nature so that it can be used multiple times,

And that is why it reduces the amount of waste significantly.

Secondly, silicone does not have as high molecular weight as plastic does;

It can be easily reformed into different products given the presence of correct facilities.

Sadly, we have yet to discover a material that has all the qualities of plastic and is biodegradable as well, and silicone isn’t a biodegradable product.

But all hope is not lost here as silicone is an inert and low-impact material,

Which means if it ends up free-floating in the environment while it will take a couple of years to decompose,

It will not degrade into materials that are toxic for the environment.

However, the best-case scenario for silicone users is to make sure it ends up in a recycling unit so it can meet its fate after serving to the core.

Silicone: Not toxic

Silicone, on the other hand, is made up of almost natural substances,

So it does not degrade into elements that are toxic for humans,

That is the reason why silicone is majorly used in medical treatment methods.

Silicone: Safe Decomposition

Silicone, if decomposed due to any unprecedented factors,

Will only degrade into silica and oxygen with some side chains of alkyls,

And these elements can easily be handled and excreted by a healthy human body.

Most silicone products conjured for use by sensitive humans are carefully constructed to be BPA-free, so silicone toys are a safer alternative for children.

If large amounts of silicone products end up in wildlife, they will not be as much of a health and environmental hazard to animals as is plastic.

Plastic

Plastics are large polymeric macromolecules with multiple cross-linkages connecting organic elements, mainly oxygen, sulfur, or more complex crude oil, etc.

Plastics are obtained after a lengthy process of polymerization and polycondensation and have high molecular weight.

There are two main types of plastic: thermoplastics and thermosetting plastics, the latter has highly cross-linked particles and once molded it acquires its permanent shape and cannot be changed afterward.

However, thermoplastics have a lower number of cross-linkages and can be reheated to be shaped differently, and thus, they can be recycled, unlike the other one.

Harmful effects of plastic

Perhaps the only thing shaking humanity to its core is how diversely we have damaged the planet’s ecosystem,

And the things that make our day to day life have rained catastrophe to other lives and is now bringing havoc to humans as well.

For thousands of years, we have relied on natural ways to store, preserve, create toys, and all the other ways plastic has inserted itself in our lives.

The difference between those products and plastics is that those products were biodegradable, which means once discarded, nature could easily break them down and use them in whatever way they were suitable.

Plastic, on the other hand, is not biodegradable; it takes hundreds of years for a simple plastic to decompose and leave the planet completely.

Due to our heavy dependence on plastic-based products and our ability to ignore their impact on the planet,

All while dumping plastic waste wherever we find suitable, we now have to bear conditions of natural disasters due to climate change.

We literally have a plastic waste island floating around in the open sea.

The reason plastic is so easily dumped into the trash cans, oceans, and landfills is that its production is cheap, and most of the plastic is single-use.

Perhaps the most concerning factor for anyone deciding which element to use is the level of toxic compounds in the product?

The question is which of the following: Amongst plastic or silicone, which one is more toxic for humans and wildlife around the world?

Toxicity of Plastic

As all of us have studied or come across some general information in our lives about the processing practices of plastic that are commercially used in a wide range of products.

Most of us must have found out that not only the elements added to create commercial plastic are often carcinogenic, but the polymerization and polycondensation processes add toxic substances to create a more stable material.

In simple words, accessories made from plastic have toxins in them, and their direct exposure to the human organ system either through ingestion or indirect contact with food can have serious side-effects on human health.

Slow decomposition of plastic

Moreover, we have already expressed our concerns for the slow decomposition process of plastic that has led to huge amounts of plastic waste piling up and disrupting our wildlife;

If accidentally ingested by wildlife of sea or land, it can definitely pose serious risks to their health as well.

Bottom Line

Reviewing the following aspects of products constructed with plastic or silicone,

  • Longevity
  • Toxicity
  • Effect on environment
  • Costs
  • Processing

We have come to the conclusion that silicone products are a safer alternative for humans, even if they cost more. If you really think about the longevity, they will end up saving you more money.

Even though silicone products are not disposable and thus create a bit of hassle while traveling and handling becomes a little too stressful, the overall benefits of silicone have won the game over plastic.

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