Until recently there hasn’t been much of a national or local sex toy recycling option. But now there’s one!
Most sex toys are made from materials like silicone and TPE, so it’s a good idea to recycle them. Just make sure to bag them properly and check any local guidelines.
Sex toys, especially motorized ones can break down over time. The motor can die or the toy could get water damaged and need to be replaced. Or perhaps you’ve simply grown tired of your favorite toy or want to upgrade to a new one.
The good news is that while sex toys may make up a miniscule slice of overall consumer waste, there are ways to recycle or dispose of your used toys responsibly.
Most recycling and e-waste centers are not equipped to deal with sex toys because they’re considered biohazards. The same holds true for most sex toy manufacturers.
But some companies, such as the Canadian retailer Come As You Are, offer to take care of sex toys for their customers. You just need to send them a bag of used toys and the company will handle everything else, cleaning the plastic, silicone, and electronic parts before sending them off for processing. The only downside is that you need to pay for shipping, which can be a bit of a hassle. You should also check the toy’s battery compartment regularly for leaks or signs of wear and tear.
Like many modern gadgets, sex toys often contain electronics that must be properly disposed of at an electronic recycling center. While sex toys make up a small fraction of overall consumer waste, those that are made with plastic and electronics can cause environmental havoc if they’re thrown in the trash.
Batteries in sex toys can release volatile chemicals into the soil, damaging ecosystems and water sources. Even silicone, a common toy material, takes up to 500 years to break down on its own.
While some manufacturers and retailers gloss over toy disposal, others are trying to address the issue. The Brisbane-based toy company Rosewell offers a program that mails customers’ vibrators to a collection facility in the US, where the devices can be disassembled and the valuable metals can be stripped out for reuse.
The UK’s Hackney Council has a similar service, with drop-off points that accept electrical items, including vibrators. If your local area has no such resources, a quick online search can find mail-in options.
The plastics used in sex toys aren’t always recyclable. This may be due to the way they are made or because of the fetish nature of their use. Regardless, they end up in general trash bins rather than recycled, and the toxins can leach into the soil or water, affecting our health.
The same goes for batteries, and even electronics like vibrators that are no longer working. Most of these devices are considered e-waste, and some states have laws that prevent e-waste from going into landfills.
It’s best to clean your sex toys before sending them off for recycling. This will help ensure they are sanitized, and it’s also good for the longevity of your sex toy (although it won’t fix a broken one!). You can boil most non-motorized toys for 3-4 minutes to sanitize them, or you can use a gentle soap and warm water.
The Natural Love Company, an eco-conscious sex toy maker, has a toy recycling program that allows consumers to send in their old toys for processing. They sterilize them and recycle materials such as silicone and rubber into new sex toys.
The metals used in sex toys, such as steel and ABS plastics, can be recycled. However, this must be done at a specialist recycling center as they don’t always accept electronics or even non-motorised toys. Also, be sure to clean the metals thoroughly before recycling. This means soaking most metals for 10 minutes in a solution of 1:1 bleach and water or using a sex toy cleaner. It’s also important to remember that sex toys that are battery operated are considered e-waste and there are laws against sending this to landfill.
Because the average sex toy contains multiple materials and parts, such as batteries, silicone and electrical components, they’re not easily recyclable. Plus, some recyclers just don’t want to deal with them. That’s why a number of companies offer to trade in your old vibrators for a credit on new ones. Ann Summers, for example, has a similar scheme in the UK. Come As You Are runs one in Canada, but sadly it’s not available in Vancouver as the closest sex toy recycling program is in Toronto.
Many sex toys are made of rubber and silicone. Theoretically, these materials can be recycled in nations with robust recycling programs. But in reality, it’s often impossible.
According to Truelove, if a toy is battery operated, like a vibrator or dildo, it’s considered an electrical item and needs to be taken to an electronics recycling center. But this isn’t always an option for people with no access to a nearby facility.
To address this issue, some companies have launched sex toy trade-in programs. They collect used sex toys, clean them, and turn them into new products. “It’s important for consumers to be aware that they should only buy sex toys from companies that accept sex toy recycling,” says Truelove. “The term ‘recyclable’ doesn’t mean anything if the product can’t actually be recycled.” Before sending in a toy, it’s recommended that you sterilize it by soaking it in a 10% solution of bleach for 10 minutes. Also, it’s important to remove any batteries from a vibrator before sending. You can do this by soaking it in the bleach solution or using a cotton drawstring bag.