Silicone is an incredibly popular material for all sorts of applications. It is often used to construct kitchen tools and baking molds. So, what happens when silicone has reached the end of its natural lifespan? Can it be recycled, or is it destined for the garbage can?
Silicone is recyclable, but you must check with your local recycling center before dropping it off. The recycling process is different from other plastics and not available everywhere. Major silicone manufacturers also accept silicone products for recycling.
Let’s take a look.
Can You Recycle Silicone?
Silicone is, of course, plastic. It feels more like rubber, but it is very much in the plastic category of products. Silicone, like many plastics, can be recycled. It can be recycled several times over the years.
It is worth noting that not all silicone products can be recycled. When we discuss silicone products here, we mostly talk about containers and kitchen tools. While silicone sealants are used in the construction industry, these can’t be recycled. This is because they will have far too many chemicals in them. This can make the actual silicone tough to separate.
Where Do You Take Silicone To Be Recycled?
You may be able to take it to your local recycling center. However, not all will accept the product due to the complexities of recycling silicone. However, they will likely be able to point you in the direction of a place that does. In rare cases, they may even be able to take the silicone off of your hands and pass it over to a recycling center that can deal with it.
In recent years, several top silicone-producing companies will have started to accept silicone recycling. So, if your product comes from a major manufacturer, you may want to look into whether they can help you. They may even send a small box where you can ship your silicone. This makes the process incredibly simple.
In rare cases, silicone may be collected by the side of the road. However, these are very rare cases. While it does look like plastic, it should not be mixed in with other plastics. It is not going to be recycled in the same way.
Of course, since silicone is such a resilient material, if there still seems to be a bit of life left in your silicone, you can always take it to your local thrift store or charity shop. They will be more than happy to take it off of your hands. Of course, you will need to ensure that it has been completely cleaned beforehand for them to accept it.
How Do You Prepare Silicone For Recycling?
Make sure that the silicone is completely cleaned beforehand. There shouldn’t be any dirt or grime on it. This is especially important if the silicone you are handing over has been used with food. Since silicone will not be recycled immediately, the food will start to rot. This can cause mold to grow on the silicone, making it a lot more difficult to recycle.
If you have silicone kitchen tools, then they may have a plastic handle. If you can, pull off the plastic handle before you take the silicone in for recycling. The silicone can be added to one recycling pile, while the plastic handle can be added to the other. Remember, the two of these cannot be mixed at all.
They cannot be recycled together before silicone is made from different materials than plastic. If you do not separate the things yourself, then there is no guarantee that the silicone will end up in the recycling.
How is Silicone Recycled?
In the same way as plastic.
At the start, the silicone will be given a quick clean. The recycling center will also sort through everything to ensure that only silicone is recycled. If something cannot be recycled, then it will be pulled out at this point.
This is why it is so important that you clean the silicone beforehand. The cleaning that the recycling center will only be quick. If the dirt and grime are too ingrained, the silicone will end up in a landfill.
Once everything is cleaned, the silicone will be ground into small granules. This helps to ensure that everything is a bit easier to process.
This is because there will be many different sizes and shapes of silicone in the pile. Making everything a uniform shape makes it easier to control the process. It will use a lot less energy.
The next step will be heating the silicone to a blisteringly high heat. As you may well know, it takes a lot of heat up silicone, which is why it is so good for kitchen tools This does mean that the temperature will be a lot higher than with plastics.
Some chemicals may be added to the mixture to help to purify the silicone at this point.
Once everything has been melted down, the molten silicone will be placed into molds, where it will then cool. The cooled silicone will then be sold to factories that need it.
Interestingly, you can do the same in the comfort of your home, assuming you can reach the required temperatures. A lot of people recycle silicone like this.
Silicone can go through this process countless times before it can no longer be recycled.
Can You Throw Silicone in the Garbage?
Interestingly, you can. Silicone does not cause damage to the environment like plastics. Well, nowhere near as much. However, just because you can doesn’t mean that you should.
While silicone in a landfill will not cause that much harm, you must remember that the silicone-producing industry creates a lot of pollution. So, if you recycle your silicone, you can know that you are doing a bit for the environment by reducing the demand for a polluting industry.
Silicone is a recyclable material, but it is important to check with local recycling centers before dropping it off since the recycling process for silicone is different from other plastics and not available everywhere. Additionally, some silicone products, such as silicone sealants, can’t be recycled due to their high chemical content. But, major silicone manufacturers accept silicone products for recycling.
To prepare silicone for recycling, the silicone should be completely cleaned, and plastic handles should be separated before handing it over for recycling. Silicone is then ground into small granules to make recycling easier and can be recycled several times over the years.