Thursday, May 25, 2017

Where Do Sex Toys Go to Die?

Before:  Love, exciting and new.
I recently tested a truly heinous “oral sex simulator” sex toy for a magazine. The contraption involved 10 chihuahua-sized plastic tongues that swirled furiously, pinwheel-fashion, slapping at your most delicate bits while whirring furiously, like a peeved lover who wished you would just have a damn orgasm already. I can only imagine what it would do to an errant pubic hair.

I used the thing, because I am a serious journalist, but what was I supposed to do with it, after? It seemed wasteful to just throw it away, not to mention the embarrassing tarting up of my weekly garbage. And right now there are no blue recycling bins where you can toss your toys after they've put in their time.

How is it that old sex toys have no dignified resting place? It's for a variety of reasons, the top being that they're sex toys, ewwww. 

Some recycling facilities won't take them because they consider them bio-hazards. Recycling is also tricky because toys can contain problematic and/or toxic materials like batteries, motors, and weird-ass “jelly” materials. Money is also an issue. It's just not profitable (yet) to deal in used Fleshlights. “The biggest issue is the mixed polymers. This is an export only item, mostly to China. The market for mixed plastics has been quickly eroding since 2008,” said a recycling industry expert, who wished to speak anonymously because...sex toys. “But if there were large quantities available on a consistent basis, I'm confident that there would be a home available for recycling.”

Even though I have, perhaps, “a lot” of sex toys hidden under my bed (the world's #1 hiding place for sex toys, followed by the nightstand drawer), it's not the kind of large quantities I would need to set up an in-home export business. What are the options, then?

Throw them away.
Sure, you can take out the batteries and recycle them, but the rest will end up in a landfill, stubbornly not biodegrading, so our descendants will be well aware of what big pervs we were. This is not ideal.

Buy from a place that recycles toys.
Right now that's exactly two places: UK-based sex toy company Lovehoney and Come As You Are (CAYA), an “anti-capitalist, co-operative sex shop” in Toronto, Canada. Lovehoney's Rabbit Amnesty Programme is the most successful, running for 10 years in the UK, and now offers recycling to U.S. customers (click here for info).

“Everything we receive gets checked to make sure it qualifies for the recycling scheme. The toys are then sorted into containers and sent to our nearest WEEE Recycling Plant. They’re pretty used to receiving mountains of colourful phalluses from us now, “ explains Richard Longhurst, co-owner of Lovehoney. “The unwanted toys get crushed and separated into their different materials. You can see a video of the whole process on Youtube. It’s quite entertaining to see a bulldozer with a shovel-load of sex toys and see rabbit vibrators whizzing round conveyor belts and crushed into little pieces.” Metals might be made into new gadgets and plastics might go into that container you're drinking out of right now. Pause for spit take.

At CAYA, things aren't quite as advanced, but they are doing their sincere Canadian best. “We encourage folks to drop off their busted sex toys and give them a 15% discount for their efforts,” says Jack Lamon, Worker-Owner at CAYA Co-operative. “While we can't recycle all sex toy materials, we can deal with abs plastics, silicone, and the electronics contained within. The silicone we're hanging onto for a top-secret in-house re-purposing project. The biggest issue for us is the vinyl, rubber, and mystery plastics. None of these materials should have ever been in sex toys in the first place, and they certainly shouldn't be in landfills! Anything we get that is an antique, we sterilize and keep for our collection. We've found some original Fun Factory pieces in the recycling, not to mention Wahl Vibrators from the 1960s.” Although you are welcome to send your box of worn out butt plugs to CAYA, Lamon doesn't actually recommend it. “The shipping cost is probably too prohibitive for most folks, and honestly, we feel weird about people shipping stuff to us from too far away - I suspect that the gas/oil and emissions undo the good work of recycling - from an environmental perspective,” he said. Instead he encourages...

Sex Toy Swaps
“Sex toy swaps are amazing and I would love to see more happen in local communities,” says Lamon. “Folks have tons of amazing stainless steel, glass, and leather toys that would be better re-used than recycled--and that stuff is so expensive to buy new.”

The thing is, most people have a huge issue with used sex toys, despite the fact that we happily re-use penises and other real body parts all the time. We're so squeamish about it that it's difficult to have a serious discussion about used toys without everyone giggling like a bunch of 5th graders. When I asked readers of my sex blog—a pretty progressive group--if they'd consider a swap, only one person would admit to it.

Still, a few determinedly green and/or thrifty souls are willing to give it a go. “I have a small group of friends I trust and am very comfortable sharing intimate things with, and every once in awhile we do a toy-swap. I know it sounds like a terrible and kinda creepy idea in general, but really, if it's sterilizable and comes from someone I trust, why not exchange that glass g-spotter that I never actually use for an awesome purple silicone dildo that doesn't quite work for my best friend?” posted rhiannonstone on Metafilter.

Re-using sex toys most likely has some historical precedence. As one of my readers pointed out after a post on the early 1900s vibrator hysteria treatments, “I would hazard a guess that the doctors did not purchase a new device for every patient.” (Even if you have no qualms about unknown things in your orifices, you should avoid porous toys and ones made with toxic materials--A decent general rule for new toys as well.)

Go rogue.
Some people use them as artistic inspiration. Subtle Dildo, an instillation art project, ponders the presence of plastic in our lives with a photo series, each featuring a Where's Waldo-like hidden dildo. Lovehoney offers a cheeky list of sex toys hacks including a butt plug light pull, dildo book ends, and a sex doll turned scarecrow. And, according to a discovery by this dude on YouTube, some folks just toss their used dildos into the empty lot behind the Peddlers Inn, in Ulysses, Kansas (not recommended).

Sell them online.
Ebay doesn't allow it but sites like Craigslist, which technically also doesn't allow it, has a small black market, especially for generally unaffordable high-end toys. And the year-old used sex toys subreddit currently has almost a dozen items up for grabs, including the WeVibe 4. New, they'll run you about $150, but the seller is accepting offers. “Just doesn't work as expected for the wife,” he explains. So far, there's one offer. For 40 bucks.

Postscript: If the idea of buying used sex toys online skeevs you out, you should definitely not read the National Association for the Advancement of Science and Art in Sexuality's (NAASAS) investigation that found that “many” online sex toy retailers were selling used toys. To determine that the toys were used, these investigators weren't using some sort high tech DNA analysis—they were just looking at the stuff!

Reads the NAASAS report in a particularly hideous string of words. “Indicators noted in the study to determine if a sex toy had been previously purchased were physical evidence found on the actual sex toys inside their packaging such as human body hair (including pubic hair), vaginal and anal secretions (including fecal matter), saliva, finger prints, lubricant residue, animal fur, lint from clothing and more.”

I told you not to read it.  

xoxo
jill

(This first ran in AlterNet. Photo courtesy Doc Johnson who gave it to me after my fabulous tour of their magical sex toy factory wonderland.)

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

There are a few people, maybe including a favorite celeb or two, whose toys I would consider using, especially immediately after they had just used them. As for those few I have owned, I had no qualms about walking away from them (after dropping in the trash) because unless someone is going through my cans looking for recyclables how will they trace it back to me once it is at the dump?

The under-the-bed hideout reminds me of a story involving an ex-wife (no, not the one you know). We had been together a couple of years at a Venice apartment and decided to move. Me and a friend were delegated the heavy lifting. So, as we were taking the mattress out, what should we find under the bed that I never suspected. It was the hugest, gawd-awful rubber penis dildo you ever hope not to see. Apparently, this is what kept her company before we met. Talk about heavy lifting. And talk about being embarrassed that our friend practically stepped on the sucker after it rolled out.

'Nuff said on this topic.

Luke

northierthanthou said...

Lol, this is an interesting dilemma. Seems like this is the sort of thing people would prefer not to think about. Might be the key here is to make up a story kind of like the stork bringing a baby so as to enable avoidance mechanisms.

Where do old sex toys go?

Venus herself reclaims them every time you see a leticular cloud.

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