CHOICE membership

Silicone & other food covers

My Question was about covers, not plastic, nor foil nor using anything else… just about silicon food covers. The covers that are made from silica sand.

They are silicone food covers. While they contain silica (possibly from sand) in their manufacture, they also include polymers and other synthetic materials (which make then flexible and stretchy). The formulation of the silicone material used to make silicone food covers is a type of plastic.

Silicon is a chemical element and in it natural (oxidised) forms appears as sand and quartz.

This video is useful to gain a better understanding of what silicone (used for food covers and kitchen utensils) is:

2 Likes

The covers may be derived from silica sand (basically silicon dioxide) but that is not what they end up being. Silicone is a synthetic polymer very much like ‘plastic’. Both can be made into food-grade flexible containers and/or covers. Somewhat simplified, the key difference is the backbone of ‘plastic’ molecules is many carbon atoms joined in long chains where the backbone of silicone is many silicon atoms joined together in long chains.

There are many features that plastic and silicone share. If you are getting rid of plastic because of its impact on the environment you should also look at the impact of silicone on the environment, you may find some advantages but some of the same problems.

Here is one sales pitch I found about silicon covers:

Let’s eliminate the use of plastic wrap! These food-grade silicone food covers are a sure way to keep plastic pollution out of our beautiful oceans. Stretchy and secure, they have an airtight seal that keeps food fresh longer. They are made of natural silica sand and are the perfect kitchen item to support a zero-waste lifestyle!

Sure these covers have less impact if they are kept out the ocean, but so do durable reusable plastic containers. Both are safe and can have air tight seals.

Then we get into the fallacies. There is nothing intrinsically better about being derived from silica sand, this is employing the naturalistic fallacy. Silicone is just as synthetic as plastic. Sand is natural - silicone is not.

The second fallacy is silicone is zero waste. It will still be a long lived artificial object if it gets into landfill or the ocean. Silicone is not noticeably biodegradable. So sure the environment is in front in that if you give up single use plastic. That does not make silicone zero waste.

1 Like

There are no systems in place in Australia to recycle silicone based products?
Note: It is possible to re incorporate finely shaved silicone mixed in new products. Alternately it is possible to break down silicone solids to produce silicone lubricants.

Totally not recommended!
One organisation promoting a particular silicone based feminine hygiene product even suggests disposal by burning. An intense high heat fire is recommended. Possibly the logic is high temperature and intensity combustion furnaces have long been the most common way of safety disposing of potentially hazardous medical waste. The two methods are not the same.

I got some silicone bowl covers, stretchy wrap squares and baking sheets. I’m finding them excellent.

If silicone products manage to get into the ocean, they are no different to plastics. They take many centuries to degrade (like plastic they are stable and don’t decompose) and look like sea fauna (like plastic and could be consumed by mistake).

While I strongly support reusable materials over single use one…use of products like Tupperware, quality reusable plastic containers, silicone covers etc have the same potential environmental impacts if not used appropriately. One of major disadvantages of silicone products is they can’t be recycled by the domestic user and up being disposed on in the environment…hopefully in a landfill. At least with plastics, recycling is mature (even cling film can be recycled in the soft plastic stream) and domestic users have the ability to have any plastic product recycled at its end of life.

Reusable products like silicone covers should be supported as they can reduce the amount of single use products which are used and then wasted/thrown out. I use the word can as one needs to often use reusable products scores of times to achieve an environmental advantage over single use products…as they are often use more resources to produce. This advantage doesn’t often occur in reality with poorer quality, poorly looked after items causing short life or products which are bought on a whim and are rarely used.

Reducing reliance on single use products like cling flim is where there is a benefit of using silicone covers…there is no benefit over reusable plastics at the end of the day.

I bought some, as like the idea. Not work that well, as only limited sizes and never seem to have enough of the right size at the right time. Not that easy to get on certain sizes as well. So, - still like the idea, but in practice not working out as well as hoped.

2 Likes

Thank you! I did wonder about that. Guess will keep on searching for a better alternative and continue using glad wrap as I still have a roll.

Waxed paper works pretty well and kept in place with a rubber band or we use elastic (the clothing type) bands adjusted to size. Or a couple of sheets of the normal unwaxed paper (greaseproof I think many still call it) , we also use the non waxed when doing the Christmas puddings in the boiling phase (again at least two pieces). This is not the paper towel, so please don’t use that…

Our supplier of greaseproof (but you can buy the similar product on rolls from Woolworths & Coles or similar):

https://www.foodpackagingonline.com.au/products/napkins-wraps/paper-wrap/greaseproof-paper/

We buy our waxed paper from our local IGA but Coles & Woolworths probably stock it as well.

2 Likes

Any reusable covers (plastic or non-plastic) of good quality and if looked after will last many years and reduce the amount of waste produced…especially when compared to single use plastic films. There are many websites which sell such products. Any reusable product is better than a single use one.

Alternatively, use sealable plastic containers (e.g. Tupperware or variants) as these will also last a very long time if looked after.

1 Like

Agreed. but still have some cling wrap and not throwing it out. Not buying it after i run out but for now when need it will use it.

Too many places are selling silicon lids, hence my original question. Wondered if anyone had any experience with any.

2 Likes

Waxed lunch wrap is no longer available. It was my wrap of choice but I have been unable to find it for quite sometime now. Greaseproof and baking papers have their uses but are nowhere near as good for wrapping a sandwich when a container is not appropriate.

2 Likes

Beeswax wraps any use to you in lieu??

3 Likes

We actually have some of these silicone covers. My wife use them when we have a missing lid or covering bowls where they will fit.
I do not find them that good to use, a bit fiddly sometimes and I prefer to use a plate where I can. Otherwise move the contents to a reusable plastic container with a lid. I find these much better to use than the silicone covers.
In all I try to avoid using plastics due to having to dry them by hand from the dishwasher - our dishwasher is not very good for plastics (don’t know if that is a general problem or just or rental house dishwasher).

3 Likes

A totally natural product, excreted (bee sweat?) from bodily glands. The excreted wax is subsequently chewed like gum in the bees mouth and softened (+bee saliva?) before being placed (spat out?) to help build a new cell or cap a completed cell.

Isn’t nature wonderful!

Reality may be that the total capacity of imported European honey bees do not produce enough surplus wax each year to meet demand. That’s if Australia needed to produce more bees waxed paper to meet a zero plastic future.

Sustainability may be very limited. Annual honey production in Australia 25-30million kgs, or two 500gm jars each. One study suggested this quantity requires just 1,000T of wax. Not a significant quantity to borrow from, given bee keepers prefer to recycle their wax to improve hive productivity.

There are numerous sources of food grade waxes. These range from insects (shellac), plant derived (palm oil, carnauba), to manufactured paraffins. No needs for bees. Alternately honey bees self consume up to 6kg of homey to produce each extra 1kg of wax required for the hive construction.

3 Likes

I tried different types. I found the stretchy one’s didn’t suit my crockery well and were useless and slipped off if they were wet (which they often were from condensation).

I ended up buying 4 sets of these covers and they are perfect for my needs, which is mostly short term fridge storage of bowls of foodstuffs. Haven’t used cling wrap since I got them a year or more ago.

3 Likes

They certainly look more useful than the soft, stretchy set I bought (which won’t stay on in the microwave), but - I think I will now use a combo of plate and baking paper (used for cartouches) - at least I can compost the (green) baking paper.
And I refuse to feed the Amazon behemoth…

3 Likes

Our IGA gets a waxed roll in on it’s shelves. They have lots of things that the main players don’t stock. I wasn’t sure if the Coles or Woolies still carried it but thought they might. Anyway while our local IGA, which is only a short walk away, stocks it we will continue to buy it. Baking paper is coated with silicone to make it non stick so we try to avoid that as it doesn’t go in our composter. If we run out of Waxed we defer to greaseproof and find it quite adequate.

1 Like

We use the food covers and storage bags. No more cling film and zip-lock bags. I heartily endorse them for their practicality and environmental aspect. Aldi just had silicon food store bags in the centre isle at much less than costing elsewhere. Watch for their return.

2 Likes

Bugger. I thought I was OK with the unbleached baking paper… googling it only talks about it being chlorine free - doesn’t mention the silicone… a sin of omission??

3 Likes