What is Silicone? Is Silicone Vegan?
Silicone is a synthetic polymer. It is made of silicon, oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon. It is typically seen either as a liquid or as a flexible and rubbery plastic-like material. It should not be confused with silica, the mineral, which naturally occurs as a common component of quartz, flint, granite, feldspar, and many other rocks and minerals. It is considered vegan because none of its components are derived from animals.
Silicone is used in a wide variety of everyday items, including cosmetics, shaving products, and skincare items. It is also used in DIY products such as sealants, lubricants, and adhesives, and in food, where it has a variety of uses, including as an anti-caking agent, a stabilizer, and an anti-settling agent.
How is Silicone Made? Is It Sustainable?
Sand is heated to isolate pure silicon, which is then put through a range of complicated steps involving other chemicals to create silicone. This can be done at scale for a relatively low cost.
The main ingredient, silicon, is widely available and production of silicone is unlikely to deplete the earth’s resources in a significant way. It is not sustainable in the sense that it is a renewable resource, but we are unlikely to run out. Silicone can be recycled, but this service is not widespread., and only applies to products that have substantial elements made of silicone, such as some kitchenware. Most silicone products that a vegan might buy, such as cosmetics, are not recyclable.
It is also worth noting that the production process does use materials derived from petroleum, although as many silicone products are longer-lasting than their plastic equivalents (e.g. kitchenware), it is still better than some alternatives.
Should Vegans Buy Silicone?
Yes, products using silicone are completely safe and vegan friendly. It does not include any animal ingredients, its production is unlikely (as far as we know) to harm animals, and in terms of environmentally-friendliness it is better than plastic.