But while we might remember the experience of buying them, and we definitely remember the experiences of using them, do we think about what happens to them after we’re done with them?
As we become more aware of the environmental impacts of our actions, we need to start considering the complete lifecycle of our products. It’s not just about how products are made, the materials they use and the labour employed to make them — we also need to consider how to safely and sustainably dispose of a product at the end of its life.
For Brisbane-based sexual wellness brand Rosewell, this question was a no-brainer. As a vegan who lives a low-waste life, founder Alisha Williams knew from the beginning that she never wanted any of their sex toys to end up in landfill. And though it would be a massive expense, Williams imagined a possibility where Rosewell could take in any brand of sex toy and save it from a life in landfill. Mobilised by the fact that e-waste is the fasting growing waste in Australia, her idea turned into reality.
“That's a terrifying statistic, so it just made sense for us to launch into something very audacious and see how it goes,” she tells Refinery29 Australia. “I don't think anyone can run a business without thinking about the environmental impact. There are things that you can and cannot control, and for me this was something that I couldn't just control, but something that I could actively better.”
The female-founded start-up is promising to take in any old or inactive sex toys (no purchase necessary) to ensure they are recycled properly. Because these pleasure tools are a mix of batteries, electronics, silicone and plastic, your local bin night won’t do the trick.
Rosewell will also cover the cost of carbon-neutral shipping between the consumer and the brand, as well as any other costs associated with delivering and recycling the toys through their licensed provider, ISO 03577. To use this free service, people can check out Rosewell’s Recycling Program, where they can fill out a form with their details and generate a paid postage label. It’s that simple.
The recycling process is complicated and thorough, and for good reason. “[The recyclers] actually separate the vibrator bit by bit.. and work out what material goes where,” explains Williams. “The silicon is milled or granulated into a shred that goes to another separation process [where anything] magnetic gets separated, and that silicon gets pushed back into a recycling facility so the actual silicone itself is recycled. The batteries that can be recycled go into their individual recycling, and other brands’ plastic is recycled [too].”
This type of circular, forward thinking is a far-cry from the vacuum-sealed shrink-wrapped sex toy found in sex shops.
Importantly, this move helps to remove the awkwardness out of sex toy talk — Williams reassures us that you won’t have to call up your local council to figure out how to properly recycle your toys anymore.
“Don't be embarrassed when it comes to the end of life [of sex toys]; utilise programs like our recycling program. It takes all the embarrassment, the confusion, the conversation out of it, and [instead, provides] a really straightforward [approach].
This type of circular, forward-thinking approach is a far cry from the vacuum-sealed shrink-wrapped sex toy found in sex shops. Williams acknowledges that there is an industry-wide shift happening, but stresses there’s still more work to be done.
“I think that the sex toy industry is undergoing a bit of modernisation. I think that the more we move towards quality, longevity [and] sustainability, and move away from cheap materials and mass production, you're already on the right path. For us, we have always made sure that at no part in our production we use anything that has plastic or non-recyclable products or goods at any point,” says Williams. “And I think the industry could probably take a bit of inspiration from that.”