Do you fantasize about sex toys that are made from less toxic, sustainable materials – ones that are more environmentally friendly and do not harm your health from hazardous chemicals? Are you lying in bed wondering if sex toys are recyclable and how can you best make them durable and prevent landfill from becoming polluted? I do!
The problem is that sex toys are not regulated by consumer safety authorities. Unfortunately, anyone can claim their products are safe without proper verification.
I went looking for the fairest and most sustainable toys, gloves, condoms, and lubricants. I looked for corporate and retailer products with executives and employees who identify as queer, non-binary, transgender, feminist, black, local and colored (BIPOC), and I looked for cooperative-owned goods. (Some also pack or ship plastic-free or in reused packaging.) I have also looked into services that repair damaged and defective vibrators and other devices. These services can help consumers reuse their toys and not throw them in the trash when they break.
Finding the answers to these questions was much more difficult than it should be. Here’s what I found, along with some tips on how to keep your favorite indulgence products long.
How to Repair (or Recycle) Toys
The best thing you can do to keep a non-existent sex toy out of a landfill is to fix it before replacing it. Ask iFixit how to fix almost anything you can think of. Or, watch surprising G-rated videos on how to fix a vibrator with corroded batteries or a Hitachi Magic wand massager.
Unfortunately, no company that claims to recycle sex toys would give me details of exactly how they do it and how they do it responsibly. Since the sex toy recycling market seems so muddy, if you can’t reuse an unrepairable sex toy, you should remove the electronic parts and take them to a responsible electronics recycler as certified by e-stewards.
The most sustainable condoms and gloves I could find come from Fair Squared, a company in Germany that ships within Europe and will soon ship to the USA. According to company representative Samantha Prowald, they don’t add petroleum or plastics to their latex products. “We have developed a new condom packaging with an innovative paper layer that replaces a layer of plastic film and saves at least 40 percent of the plastic compared to other brands,” she said. No natural lubricant is available for pre-lubricated condoms that are coated with silicone oil. That’s why Fair Squared has developed a sensitive dry condom with a corn powder coating. And she said her condoms don’t contain carcinogenic nitrosamines, odor maskers, or additives. In general, they also reuse “ugly” cardboard boxes and have plastic-free, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified product packaging and shipping, even tape.
FSC also certifies the rubber plantation for Sustain condoms. In contrast to other natural rubber latex condoms, Sustain’s have a 70 percent lower protein content. “The protein in latex causes irritation or allergy to latex. Our condoms are not hypoallergenic and therefore not safe for someone with a latex allergy, ”said Meika Hollender, co-founder and president of Sustain. Sustain is now part of the Grove Collaborative, which is currently shipping plastic-free and is committed to being 100 percent plastic-free by 2025.
The most sustainable lubricant I could find was Fair Squared organic water-based lubricant. These and many other Fair Squared products are certified as vegan and fair trade.
Things to Consider When Buying Sex Toys
You may want to avoid so-called biodegradable plastics that are not certified as compostable. It may be illegal to label a product or packaging as “biodegradable” or “compostable” if it does not have the logo of the Institute for Biodegradable Products, Din Certco, Vinçotte or the Japan BioPlastics Association on it. This is the only way you can be sure that it is composting. Californians Against Waste has more information on how to verify that the product claim is legal.
Avoid antibacterial, antimicrobial, or Microban products as a carcinogenic chemical (chloroform) can be formed when mixed with chlorine in tap water. Also, avoid products with a fragrance, as these can contain toxic phthalates that are linked to cancer, asthma, and other health problems. Avoid squishy jelly toys, rubber, vinyl (PVC) or porous (which can contain bacteria) such as ABS, TPE, TPR, elastomer, TPR-silicone, SEBS or “silicone blends”. A yellow ABS toy even had such a high cadmium content that the European Union would have needed a radioactive sticker on it.
Generally avoid silicone. The Danish Consumer Council, a watchdog for consumer chemicals, tested nine silicone vibrators and dildos in 2020 and concluded that they emit chemicals containing volatile compounds (VOC) (which are “undesirable” for sensitive body parts) and contain cyclic siloxanes (which can be toxic to fish if they are washed off) and have not met the recommendations for silicone for food contact.
Greener sex toy options
In contrast to some of the brands tested, the Fun Factory Jam Slim vibrator was free of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and peroxides. The Fun Factory website states that unlike many other brands, the toys are packaged in plastic-free packaging. And it comes with a two year warranty.
If you like accidentally imperfect silicone dildos that haven’t been lab tested, New York Toy Collective sells them at a discount, according to Carol Queen, sexologist at the national sex shop chain Good Vibrations. It’s the only manufacturer she knows that does.
Try a battery that is not battery operated, but motors that usually don’t last that long.
If you’re into glass toys, check out Feelmore Adult, a black-owned retailer staffed entirely by coloreds. It sells the Glas brand, which has passed the safety tests carried out by Dangerous Lilly (the products don’t bleed out mysterious dyes when cooked and are less fragile). Nenna Joiner started Feelmore to heal herself and the black community from trauma. Unlike other sex shops, Feelmore allows you to return defective products. “For products with engines that have stopped working, we sometimes sell them on social media at a reduced cost to avoid landfilling,” said Joiner.
If you’re interested in salvaged wood, Come As You Are Co-operative sells NobEssence, one of the few brands to offer a medical grade coating. OXYD Creations straps made from recycled bicycle tubes are also sold. (Good Vibrations also sells straps made from recycled bicycle tubes.)
How to last make sex toys
If you don’t want your toys to be dusty or stained from dyes in fabrics, store them in a carefully used plastic bag or an undyed muslin or cotton bag. Sam Whittle, owner of Venus Envy, has the following advice for consumers: “To prevent leakage, remove batteries when you are not using them. Electric (plug-in) vibrators such as the Hitachi Magic Wand should not run for more than 20 minutes. Let your electric vibrator cool down between uses. “
How you can help shape the world’s first standard for safer sex toys
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the world’s largest developer of international standards, accepts comments from consumers on its voluntary draft of an International Standard (DIS) for Safer Sex Toys (ISO / DIS 3533). You can request that the standard contain specifications such as safety limits for toxic arsenic, antimony, cadmium, lead, phthalates, fragrances, PAHs, peroxide or cyclic siloxanes (like D4, D5 or D6), vinyl and VOC. Click here to submit comments before March and urge manufacturers to take back their products for free if they break and recycle responsibly (e.g. through e-steward certified electronics recyclers).
In the meantime, ask manufacturers to post on their websites the laboratory tests showing that their products do not contain the chemical ingredients listed above.