Silicone vs plastic food storage – which of them is best, and more importantly: which is safer?
While plastic storage is convenient, food grade silicone storage is better. Plastic is not just toxic to the environment, it is also harmful for our bodies, particularly when it comes to storing food. Food grade silicone was made to be used for food and is thus safe from all these problems.
There are a number of reasons why food grade silicone is better for storage than plastic. Though there may be personal preferences around which of the two you opt for, the benefits of silicone greatly outweigh that of plastic.
Experts have carried out various research around how different substances can be harmful for the body and thus not the best option to store food in. We have taken this into consideration with this article.
Food Grade Silicone Food Storage
What is Food Grade Silicone?
Food grade silicone is made specifically for use with foods, so it is safe to use. It is made of silicone and oxygen, which are both abundantly available in nature and thus does not contribute towards the depletion of natural resources.
Since it is made of silicon, which is a metal, and oxygen, it usually has properties of both metals and nonmetals. This makes it resilient, non-porous and sustainable. Silicone molecules also contain quartz, which is a durable ‘rock’ that contributes to the resilience of the substance.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Food Grade Silicone
It is also non-toxic and free from any odors, and contains no BPA, BPS, PVC etc. so you can rest assured that there will be no migration of harmful chemicals during the storage process.
Silicone is often mistaken for plastic due to its rubbery nature, but it is very different and is made up of completely different elements. Since it is free of petroleum-based chemicals, it is safe to use for storing food, as well as putting it in the microwave, freezer, oven or even your dishwasher. You don’t have to worry about any harmful chemicals entering your food.
The material is very resistant to damage from extreme temperatures, which is a great benefit since storing food often involves freezing, and can also be used while heating it up.
Silicone is also resistant to hardening, cracking or becoming brittle over time, which can result in easy breakage. This is a great benefit since it improves the longevity of the storage items and can be used for a long time.
Silicone is also very lightweight and easy to transport so you can carry your food around in food grade silicone storage without worrying about the weight. Since they are not easily breakable, you also don’t have to worry about carrying your bags and luggage carefully for fear that the boxes you have stored inside will break.
Silicone is also 100% recyclable in some places, which is good for the environment. It is generally considered non-hazardous waste when it is not recycled.
Being difficult to break, silicone storage containers can be very convenient in saving storage space in your pantry, especially if it’s small and you rely mostly on stacking for your food containers.
The one downside of silicone is that it is rather expensive. This is because the cost of molding silicone into specific shapes is rather high, and the process of molding takes a lot more time than it does for plastic. This is why silicone has not yet managed to replace plastic when it comes to food storage.
Transparent silicone is also rather hard to come by, so if you like to store your food in containers where you can actually see the food itself, you may not like silicone options very much.
Plastic Food Storage
What is Plastic Made Of?
Plastic is made from non-renewable resources like natural gas and oil. Substances like ethane and propane, which are organic chemicals, are heated in a process called cracking. Plastics usually contain harmful chemicals like BPS, BVP, PVC, etc.
Some plastics are also made of renewable biomass sources, such as vegetable fat or oil. Other kinds may also be made of sugar derivatives and animal fat. These have the advantage of being more biodegradable than common plastics, though it should be noted that not all bioplastics are biodegradable, and those that are, are not necessarily more easily biodegradable than other plastics.
One might assume that being made of biomass, bioplastics are not as bad for health as common plastics but this is untrue. Bioplastics contain just as many toxic chemicals as their fossil fuel counterparts, and some may even contain stronger and more toxic chemicals.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Plastics
The main appeal of plastic in almost all its functions is that it is a durable substance, but this durability is exactly why it is harmful as well.
Since plastic is an uncommon target for bacteria, its longevity increases, but this also makes plastic a non-biodegradable substance, and is bad for the environment.
In fact, an estimated 8 million tons of plastic enters the oceans every year, because there are not enough landfills to be able to dispose of all the plastic that exists.
Only about 9% of plastic from the 6300 metric tons of plastic waste in 2015 were recycled. This makes plastic extremely harmful for the environment. While there are some biodegradable plastics now available due to innovation in the industry, these are relatively very difficult to get your hands on and also very expensive.
Plastic is also very bad for your health. It contains toxins and chemicals that can migrate into your food when you store food in plastic containers for long periods of time, and results in endocrine system troubles. Whether you’re storing your food in them or simply using a plastic container to heat or cool your food down, plastic poses a major threat to your body.
While plastic is very durable and easy to use in transporting your food around, silicone containers provide the same benefit, and are also safe for health as well. Silicone containers are also much more durable and inert than plastic, with much greater heat resistance as well.
Like silicone containers, plastic is also useful for storage when you’re short on space, since you can rely on stacking.
If you like to keep your food in containers where you can see what’s inside, plastic may be a better choice, since transparent silicone is rather hard to find. Plastic is also much less expensive than silicone, which makes it more attractive if you’re buying your food storage containers in sets and cannot afford very high prices.
However, due to the health reasons mentioned above, it is best to avoid plastic containers when it comes to leftovers, since heat causes plastic to release chemicals that can enter your body and harm it.
When it comes to the number of options available, plastic is likely a better choice due to the variety in plastic products. Since silicone costs a lot and takes more time to mold into shape, there are a lot more options for plastic containers available than there are for silicone. If you are looking for variety in your storage options in regard to color, style, shape, etc. you may want to opt for plastic.
For the most part, while plastic and silicone seem to offer similar functional benefits, plastic is clearly harmful for the environment and toxic for the body, which gives silicone a major advantage. However, silicone is rather expensive which can be a deal breaker for those who can’t afford higher priced items.
While personal preferences do weigh in, silicone is naturally a better choice for food storage than plastic.
About THE AUTHOR
I have over a decade of experience in food and beverage management, including a ServSafe food safety qualification. As part of this qualification, I have been professionally trained in safe food storage.Read More About Mark Walker