It’s Getting Hot In Here! Contraception and the Environment

In a time where we are more environmentally conscious than ever before, have we considered a more sustainable alternative for every aspect of our life? How damaging are our sex lives to the planet?

By Meagan Hutchinson | @meagan_s_h

The weekend rolls around and you’re on your way through Market Square to meet your Tinder date, As they stand next to the lion laughing and sporting a welcome smile you’re glad you swiped right – definitely someone mum would approve of.

The night goes on and the energy is great! Not a care in the world and those deadlines seem like a million years away, you’re getting along better than a house on fire!

That’s it. It’s time to shoot your shot! The Uber is booked and before you know it you are on your way back to theirs. As the temperature increases and the layers start hitting the floor, there is obviously one thing on your mind:

“How environmentally friendly are these condoms?”

Ok, this is the last thing on your mind – but who can blame you? However, it’s true. Although condoms are a brilliant invention, keeping us safe and not sorry all for the price of a latte, their environmental impact is one you’d consider a spit-take for. You’d think that for a generation more in tune with the fate of our planet than any before we would have considered this sooner. So what are the options?

They are one of only a few companies actively working hard to make sex sustainable.

The first profile you come across is Durex, his bio mentions that he’s popular in over 150 countries, and that he has been on the market for 80 years – Is it time for something new and fresh?
You can’t just go off of the profiles before choosing what way to swipe, and after finding his social media, it seems like Durex comes with a lot of baggage. If commitment isn’t what you’re after you may want to swipe left immediately.

Ingredients such as parabens, lidocaine and glycerin are not required to be labeled on the packaging meaning that although Durex seems like a flash kind of man who looks good at face value, he could leave you with a nasty surprise after things get more intimate. For example Glycerin is found in condoms for lubricant, and while being water-based means it is easy to clean up, if left on the vagina too long it can cause a yeast infection by throwing off the pH balance.

Next profile. HANX. She has been available since 2016, she is a powerful, feminine, natural and sleek woman. She’s vegan and environmentally conscious, HANX respects boundaries, when it’s time for her to leave she only takes 3 months to degrade – nobody likes an ex that lingers. When speaking with Sarah Welsh, the Co-founder of HANX, she assured me that HANX are “paraben free and spermicide free” and that “HANX is kind to the body and planet”.
Sarah mentioned that “sex is honest and open” and that this is reflected through her product, where they work closely with partners such as Sexplain, The Eve Appeal and Lady Garden Foundation, as she feels that there is “a lack of awareness of condoms”: hence they are one of only a few companies actively working hard to make sex sustainable – I mean, environmentalists like sex too.

If we are not wise with our contraception it can lead to problems in the future, not just physically but environmentally too. If condoms are disposed of incorrectly they can end up in large bodies of water, if not found early in the water recycling process.

Some of the items found in the sewers include condoms, toys and lingerie.

After doing some in-depth research I found that latex can take up to 4 years to decompose, and that’s before it is pumped with all of those unsexy chemicals. I contacted Jonathan Smith from Severn Trent, the private water provider for the region, to ask him how our sex life impacts their job supplying us with safe water. He urged that the only things that should go down the toilet are “the 3 P’s .. pee, poop and paper” never… hair, condoms or cotton rounds, “pipes are usually only about six-inches in diameter” and if these products build up over time can lead to flooding or fatbergs.

Jonathan told me that Severn Trent “spend millions on unblocking sewers every year” and that the strangest items he has found in the sewers alongside condoms, toys and lingerie, range from “tennis balls to a full motorbike split into parts” – hey, i’m not judging, Well maybe a little.

So now that we’ve spoken about condoms I know you’re curious about those battery-operated partners in your life.

“It’s not me, it’s you.” No, I’m not talking about people such as an ex or that frequent 1am hookup, I’m talking about the dreaded vibrator graveyard. Having a drawer filled with broken toys isn’t a predicament you ever want to be in: so how on earth are you expected to dispose of such a personal item?

Clearly the household recycling bin is out of the picture, and a box full of broken sex toys in your weely bin would look a tad OTT. As well as the odd looks you’d get for Doris next door, they’d inevitably end up in landfill.

A study by Glamour magazine revealed sex products are estimated to contribute to a whopping 222.9 million tonnes of waste each year. I don’t know about you but I think It’s time we started getting a real buzz for recycling!
Companies such as Lovehoney offer recycling programmes for your unwanted toys. How does your preloved item actually get recycled? I mean, it’s not quite the same as recycling a yogurt pot or a pasta sauce jar. BBC reporter Hayley Pearce visited the Lovehoney warehouse to see in person how they recycle their donations.

First they’re separated into vibrating and non- vibrating products, then they are sent to a WEEE processing facility to be disassembled by large scale vibrating plates – yes, vibrators get recycled by bigger vibrators.. And the silicone from the sex toy actually gets turned into a ‘sponge like material’ used to repair roads and outdoor play areas – consider that the next time you see your street getting resurfaced.

The morning sun bursts through the half-shut bedroom blind, and the chimes from Old Market Square tells you it’s 8am. Before you collect last night’s outfit from the floor, and figure out how to sneak past the flatmates, you see that the condom was left on the top of the loo. You tie it, wrap it in toilet paper and pop it in the bin. Win win, you had a good night and saved the planet at the same time, one condom at a time. So, there’s one last thing for me to ask… Same time next week?


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