Tag Archives | bagasse plates

Should My Family Be Using Silicone?

When food and products are put on the market without real testing, it’s up to parents and consumers to complete their own. Yes, silicone was FDA approved in 1979 but we are unsure if there’s been follow-up since as it’s really evolved as a ‘go-to’ material in recent years. Silicone is widely used in bake-ware, dishware, and freezer molds and the fun colors and price point have helped increase it’s popularity in family kitchens all across North America. There are many stores that promote and market silicone as a wonderful sustainable option… so is it?

The problem with using silicone to manufacture products is that it doesn’t have an end of life (EOL). The strategy of how to properly dispose or recycle silicone wasn’t implemented with the wide roll-out of silicone products. I called the largest recycling depots in the greenest cities I could think of across North America, I could not find one that recycles silicone. So when you market a product as waste-free, but it ends up in the trash, then landfill, is it sustainable? So the environmental effects of the silicone revolution in my opinion are not the best.

What about health effects? My research of silicone started from the fear it could possibility be leaching when heated at high temps or put in the freezer. For parents of pre-teens and older, we remember the recalls, uproar, and frustration when we discovered all plastics weren’t created equal. It turns out there are different types of silicone, but unlike plastic, silicone isn’t labelled or coded with symbols because there is no point to it having recycling codes.  To keep it brief, the type of silicone you want to be using is called platinum rather than tin based which are usually cheaper (price and quality), not suitable for skin contact, and cured pieces have a shorter life as they loose their elasticity.  Here are the benefits of platinum silicone:

– platinum is added as a catalyst and there are no by-products

– little shrinkage, high chemical resistance (dimensional stability)

– high resistance to high temperatures and aging

– environmental odorless and non-toxic

Silicone itself is a rubber material composed of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. With the different ways to form silicone, the difference is if fillers have been added to change properties and reduce cost. Many experts say if you twist your coloured silicone and see white bending than the silicone you are using contains fillers and is the cheaper quality (tin) silicone.  But if you are using silicone in the kitchen, especially heating it at high temps (microwave, dishwasher) or freezing (making ice or popsicles) it’s important to talk to the manufacturer and ask what type of silicone they’ve used to make the product. If they have NO idea, ask how the silicone is cured in the manufacturing process. The options I found for this process are : platinum-catalyzed cure system (or called an addition system), a condensation cure system (also called tin based cure system), a peroxide cure system (medical products produced from this system), or an oxime cure system.

Experts have been concerned that the process of adding colour to silicone might disrupt inert properties of the polymers, but manufacturers I’ve talked with that have tested for any breakdown from adding colour say that is incorrect. If this concerns you, stick to plain silicone commonly used to keep stainless steel or glass containers air-tight.

I hope this helps you answer the question “should my family be using silicone?” To summarize, if you are concerned about what happens to that silicone ice cube tray after it starts to smell or breakdown, you can not recycle silicone in most recycling depots in North America. There isn’t research to support how long silicone takes to decompose in a landfill. It’s a natural element made from sand and rock, but if containing fillers and colorants – I would assume these are a problem for the earth to absorb.

It also appears that similar to plastic, there are different types of silicone. It’s unfortunate for consumers that our Governments don’t mandate these types be coded at the bottom of all products. If you love using your silicone bake-ware, etc., take the time to call the manufacturer and inquire about what type of silicone is used. You are looking for the word platinum for a higher quality. Also, ask what the manufacturer is doing to close the loop of the end-of-life for silicone with recycling efforts.

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Spoooooky Disposable Tableware!

Greening celebrations & Halloween is a hot topic this year. One aspect of party planning that many hosts struggle to green is when using disposable tableware, specifically at children’s parties and Halloween. But we’ve made advances in biodegradable and compostable disposable tableware options and it’s never been easier to keep the fun and excitement and  the environmental impact low at these celebrations. Don’t believe me?  Check out the awesome pictures of bagasse plates stamped with beet juice at the bottom of this post.

Halloween parties don’t have to be a wasteful affair – make a goal to host a little or no-waste party. We’ve already talked about Halloween decorating so lets talk tableware. I agree that some of the printed/licensed napkins, plates and cups are adorable for Halloween, but it’s important to green this aspect of party planning. With the proper Eco-friendly tabletop accents**, this is the easiest area to green and guests will love the effect of earth friendly disposable tableware!  Using your own dishware is the best way to booster your green with party planning, but this isn’t always a practical option. We host an annual Halloween party and I know with over 20 kids running through my house, there’s no way I’m giving them my everyday dishes.  Here are some Eco-friendly options for disposable tableware & some spooky facts you’ll want to learn about traditional cups and plates..

Hot Cups:

Bring out the hot chocolate or apple cider, but make sure you’re using hot cups lined with PLA.  Traditional paper hot cups are lined with petroleum-based resin. Ever wondered why you get that nasty after taste after you’ve purchased a coffee or hot drink from a cafeteria or store? This is plastic melting and being absorbed into your body.  Compostable hot cups are a great addition to your next party because the interior resin of the cups is lined with PLA (poly lactic acid) which is derived from renewable resources such as sugarcane and starches (corn).

We all know styrofoam cups (styrofoam anything for that matter) are terrible for the environment. But if we truly understood their destruction many of us, including myself, would stand up and make more noise when we see it being used.  I ran across this description of styrofoam used by the Wonkette talking about the U.S. Capitol bringing styrofoam back into their cafeteria after banning it for 4 years. Sometimes it’s great to have a description that doesn’t sugar coat to stick into our minds if a business or event service needs a reminder about how bad styrofoam is. Quote from Wonkette:

“Foamed polystyrene” is a miraculous invention that manages to be completely awful through every step of its near-eternal “life cycle” — it is manufactured with petroleum that must be imported from Middle East dictatorships, toxic “styrene oligomers” migrate into the food it holds, it’s highly flammable and produces black poisonous smoke, and most of the 25 billion polystyrene cups tossed every year will take more than half a millennium to degrade.

Sometimes it takes shocking statistics to really reinforce that these products should never been used because of the environmental consequences. Let’s also not forget that polystyrene is a strong plastic that is ‘foamed’ into Styrofoam. I sometimes forget that Styrofoam is plastic because of the different texture but it’s polystyrene created from erethylene and benzine that is inject or blow molded. Do you want to pour hot liquid into this soup of plastic materials?

Plates:

Traditional Halloween disposable party plates hmmmmm pick your evil a) licensed paper plates made from virgin trees and inked with toxic dye 2) Styrofoam plates that are devastating to the environment 3) plastic plates that take forever to biodegrade and often end up polluting our forests and water.  Now think about using compostable plates. Not only are they biodegradable, but also compostable as they are made from excess plant materials that otherwise would have gone to waste! The first option for plates is perfect for Halloween, not because they are scary, but fit into the theme of Fall beautifully because palm leaf plates are manufactured from fallen leaves. It is very cool to tell a child that a leaf fell from a tree, was picked up for a villager, cleaned with die, and shaped into a plate. Little children and all party guests will understand this story and love learning how palm plates are made without any disruption to the tree and because they are made without dyes, wax, finishes of any kind ~ they are compostable and a very earth friendly option with party tableware. An other option with biodegradable and compostable plates are those made from bagasse which is a fibrous pulp that is left over after processing sugar cane. A cool story as well because this material would have otherwise been turned into waste and again, no trees are used in the manufacturing of these plates. So although they are stamped ‘tree free’ along the edge, guests may assume they are a paper plate because of the color and texture. Make sure to inform party guests about the bagasse plates so they don’t assume they are made from paper. One way to catch guests attention is to personalize these party plates. I use beet juice to dye the homemade play dough I made my children.  This way I get a brightly colored play dough using vegetable dye rather than brightly colored play dough from using synthetic food coloring. Well why not stamp your bagasse plates with a rubber stamp and beet juice?  You are using a natural dye to make these plates look different that will create some buzz and questions. It’s also super fun for the kids! My niece and I tried this tonight and the results were fantastic. She also loved learning how an organic substance like beet juice should be used to stamp with because you wouldn’t want any other material like traditional ink a guest’s plate that will contain food. The texture of the bagasse plates is great for absorbing the beet juice and also makes for very strong plates.

** Tabletop accents. We’ve decided on a mixture of ways to dress-up our Halloween tabletop for this year’s party. We are painting little pumpkins and gourds from our local patch and making them into ghosts and black cats. We’ve also sprinkled some pine cones and crazy shaped gourds from the patch. Felt appliques that act as reusable confetti are also a great way to punch up a table.

This post is part of the 2011 Greening your Halloween Blog Tour brought to us by Green Planet Parties, Green Halloween, Green Gift Guide, Surf Sweets and A Little Bit of Momsense.

Related Articles:

Halloween…How Will You Green?

 

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