Despite calls for sex toy recycling to be made available in Vancouver, the only option locals have to dispose of their broken or unwanted bedroom helpers is to ship them across the country.
Usually made of part plastic, part electronics, sex toys offer a unique recycling challenge which the City of Vancouver - or most of Canada - has not taken on. While silicone, a prominently used plastic in sex toys, is slightly better for the environment than conventional plastics as they do not break down into micro-plastics, it can still take up to 500 years for silicone to break down on its own.
Albert Shamess, the director of Waste Management and Resource Recovery at the City of Vancouver confirmed with Vancouver Is Awesome there is no sex toy recycling program in the city. To Shamess’ knowledge, no one local is working on solving the problem either.
Not that there is a lack of demand though.
Vera Zyla, the co-owner of the Art of Loving, an adult entertainment store in Vancouver, has been calling for the city to implement some sort of recycling for sex toys for several years.
“Nothing but the sound of crickets in reply to that idea,” Zyla told V.I.A. in an email. “There is a biohazard aspect to anything that has had body fluids on it so there may be some major hoops to jump through for that reason, unlike a used kitchen silicone spatula getting recycled.”
“I think we need this service in this city,” Zyla continued. “Our planet is in crisis and anything we can do to reuse resources is something city officials need to realize.”
There isn’t much help provincially either as Recycle BC manages residential packaging and paper recycling, not products. Nor can the answer be found with Encorp Pacific, the non-profit behind Return-It. Out of Encorp’s nearly 150 categories of electronics approved for return, none include sex toys.
The closest Vancouverites can get to recycling their adult toys is putting them in a box and mailing them 3,300 kilometres to the Come As You Are Co-operative in Toronto.
“There aren't many sex toy recycling programs around,” said the co-operative’s owner Jack Lamon, who did note one amnesty program in the UK.
“We recycle vibrating toys, silicone, and ABS plastic currently,” Lamon continued. “We recycle the electronics locally with the municipality, recycle the ABS plastic with a commercial recycler, and we sterilize and recycle the silicone in-house (we're saving it for a future project we're working on).”
Lamon explained sex toy recycling is a rarity because the process is ridiculously labour-intensive and expensive.
“We do it because we're fundamentally anti-capitalist in everything we do; we're uncomfortable with all of the waste from consumerism; and since sex toy manufacturers don't provide a way to recycle sex toys, we do it ourselves,” Lamon said.