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Rubber Sustainability: Is Silicone Recyclable?

Posted by Joe Hoffman
Rubber Sustainability: Is Silicone Recyclable?

Silicone is one of the more popular rubber materials available, and for good reason. This particular synthetic rubber is made to last and can thrive in extremely high temperatures. While silicone rubber is made to last for a long time, even some of the most durable parts will need to be replaced at some point. So, what comes next?

Businesses are spoiled for choice when it comes to rubber and plastic compounds, but there is a lack of environmentally friendly material options. Want to find out how silicone compares to other rubbers and plastics? Let’s break down whether or not silicone is truly sustainable.

Can Silicone Rubber be Recycled?

Yes, you can technically recycle silicone products. The problem is that recycling silicone isn’t as straightforward as throwing the material in a bin and waiting for a truck to take it somewhere.

Standard recycling pick-up programs and recycling facilities in the U.S. will not accept silicone. Silicone doesn’t biodegrade either, so it won’t break down in landfills either. People and businesses will need to take any silicone parts to a specialized recycling program to properly break down and reuse the material. This recycling process takes a few steps:

  • Shred the silicone materials until they’re broken down into tiny pieces.
  • Heat the pieces up until the remnants vaporize.
  • Cool the vapors until they collect into liquid form.
  • Filter the liquid multiple times so that it turns into silicone oil.

While this process is a lot more involved and less available to the average person, it is still more eco-friendly to recycle silicone instead of creating brand-new products. The downside of this process is that recycling silicone can only go so far.

Every time silicone is recycled, that particular batch of material is “downcycled.” In short, it slowly degrades in quality with every cycle. This lesser quality silicone can pose problems if you’re trying to make certain parts with specific performance requirements. Regardless of quality standards, all recycled silicone will eventually become unusable after being downcycled too many times.

Eco-Friendly Upsides for Making Parts with Silicone

Like many other materials out there, silicone rubber does pose some challenges for any business trying to go green. The good news is that your choice of material can still make a notable difference for sustainability. While silicone isn’t the most recycling-friendly material, there are some environmental upsides to using this particular compound.

It’s built to last

One way to eliminate waste is to prevent it from building up in the first place. Silicone ages extremely well, even in outdoor environments, and offers excellent water resistance. With some planning and proper use, you don't have to worry about replacing silicone parts for a long time.

That level of durability provides businesses with two key advantages. The first benefit is that you won't produce nearly as much waste material over time when replacing parts. The second benefit is that you won't have to spend as much money on replacement parts. Both advantages are substantial whether you're focusing on being green or not.

It’s better than some alternatives

Sometimes being green is about making positive changes that improve your environmental impact. It’s not a perfectly environmentally friendly compound, but silicone does have an edge over many other materials, including many plastics.

When used properly, silicone rubber is a much better long-term option than a lot of plastic materials. High-quality silicone parts can last for decades and potentially even longer depending on the use case for the application. Silicone also has the added benefit that silicone parts won’t release harmful chemicals into the ground when it’s returned to the earth.

Find the Best, Most Sustainable Part Option for Your Business

Material selection matters when it comes to your parts. The problem is that it isn’t always easy to balance sustainability, performance requirements, and budget. Fortunately, the right supplier can help you figure out a solution that addresses what’s most important for you and your applications.

At Timco, we work closely with businesses to help them invest in the best, most cost-effective rubber and plastic parts for their needs. That process includes designing high-quality parts made to last and identifying materials that can help you lessen your environmental footprint to help you meet any green initiatives or goals.

Ready to invest in the perfect plastic or rubber parts for your business? Give us a call at 800-969-6242 or contact us online to talk to one of our experts about the parts you need.