Earth Day and Sex Toys: A Battery Primer

Everybody goes on and on about how “green” and environmentally superior rechargeable sex toys are, but I’d bet that you didn’t know this fact:

Alkaline batteries can be safely disposed of with normal household waste. Never dispose of batteries in fire because they could explode.

Due to concerns about mercury in the municipal solid waste stream, we have voluntarily eliminated all of the added mercury from our alkaline batteries since 1993, while maintaining the performance you demand. Our alkaline batteries are composed primarily of common metals—steel, zinc, and manganese—and do not pose a health or environmental risk during normal use or disposal.

It is important not to dispose of large amounts of alkaline batteries in a group. Used batteries are often not completely “dead.” Grouping used batteries together can bring these “live” batteries into contact with one another, creating safety risks.

Proven cost-effective and environmentally safe recycling processes are not yet universally available for alkaline batteries. Some communities offer recycling or collection of alkaline batteries—contact your local government for disposal practices in your area.1

So the typical AA and AAA batteries you go through fast enough to warrant purchasing them in bulk from Costco are actually not that damn bad for the environment! I did not know this. However, rechargeable batteries – both the AA kind and the ones permanently lodged in your luxury sex toy – should be recycled. I’m betting a lot of don’t do this.

Due to the chemicals in them, you should recycle rechargeable, lithium, lithium ion, and zinc air batteries.

In addition to “traditional” rechargeable batteries like AAs or AAAs, rechargeable batteries like the ones found in everyday household items such as cameras, cell phones, laptops, and power tools should also be recycled. Look for the battery recycling seals on rechargeable batteries.

As part of our commitment to the preservation of the environment, we help fund the nonprofit Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation (RBRC) and its Call2Recycle® program. To find a rechargeable battery recycling location near you, visit

Sex toy recycling sites have started disappearing. I read about one guy based in Tampa, Florida who had a site and the article (from 2009) stated that he was currently operating at a loss. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise then that the website named in that article is now gone. Another sex toy recycling site that seemed to be active, also around 2008-2009 appears to be defunct. LoveHoney does still run their “Rabbit Amnesty” program where they’ll give you points towards future purchases for sending them in sex toys (for some reason turning in a rabbit vibe gets you more points) to recycle. Unfortunately this is a UK site and I’m having trouble finding anything like it in the US.  Of course, there’s always going to be idiotic media bloggers who are all “Ewww recycled sex toys?? That’s so gross!!” because they’re fucking idiots who don’t even know what an anal toy is, but I digress.

So here’s the section of my post wherein I don’t have an answer and I look to geeks who are geekier than me to tell us: Let’s say we can’t find an actual sex toy recycling program. But can we remove the rechargeable battery from our high-end sex toys if we decide that they’re taking up space and we hate them and no longer use them and just want to be rid of them? I have to be honest I wouldn’t even know how to go about breaking open something like a Lelo vibrator. As much as we are given the argument that all these rechargeable sex toys are greener and better for the environment, I have to wonder about that given that 98% of the sex toy owning population doesn’t recycle their expensive toys. Let’s face it: You’re going to buy a rechargeable sex toy that you hate at some point if you haven’t already. Fuck, most of my rechargeable sex toys I’ve ended up hating or just not liking enough to use. But then again, I keep half of them for comparison purposes for future reviews and the other half of them go to new homes via the ToySwap network. But if I didn’t have those two reasons, I would most likely just toss it. And that is not green.

As I quoted from Duracell up there, the alkaline batteries actually aren’t that bad for the environment but some of those rechargeable ones really can be. Lithium-Ion/Polymer batteries are not toxic but *should* be recycled3. Upstanding companies like Lelo4, Fun Factory and Swan/Leaf etc use Li-Po batteries. NiCad rechargeable batteries though are bad for the environment and really must be recycled and disposed of properly. But with shady companies making sex toys out of “silicone” when it’s really a porous silicone blend, can I trust them that they’re not using a cheaper rechargeable battery on their $125 sex toy? I actually looked at the CalEx site and there are no specs there that tell me what kind of rechargeable battery is in their toys. I couldn’t find out anything on my Topco brand Climax Twist rechargeable toy. I don’t know what Vibratex is using either.

I could go on and on about more aspects of “green” and sex toys, but that’s a topic for another day. Really though I just wanted to point out that your Energizer or Duracell standard batteries are not going to turn our earth to a manky, gooey pile of decay and if you think you’re being green just by trying to choose rechargeable sex toys…..think a little harder about green aspect beyond just the battery. While no electronic item is truly green, there are varying levels of “green” and it all comes down to how the sex toys are produced. Technically if you want the greenest vibrator, you could choose a Tantus sex toy. The pure silicone is chemically inert; the vibrator portion is small and can be removed easily and replaced when the motor dies (instead of replacing the whole sex toy); the Tantus toys that use an N1 style bullet, the bigger ones that resemble the RO-80mm style, take an alkaline battery.

Want to recycle your batteries, no matter what? Go here.

  1. Courtesy of Duracell
  2. Also courtesy of Duracell
  3. Unless of course you feel like purchasing a Li-Po battery drainer thingie and soaking the battery in salt water THEN you can throw it out
  4. I might not think much of their products anymore from a cost vs quality aspect but I do respect that they are using the better type of rechargeable battery and that they appear to be running a more conscientious China factory

3 Responses

  1. Lorelei says:

    This is a great – informative post. I never know what to do with batteries, so half of my junk drawer is useless dead worn out batteries, mostly from sex toys. Then there are the toys that are screwed shut and dead from long ago that I’m too lazy (or rushed) to tool apart to fill anew. I’d say all my toys should be rechargeable, but knowing me I’d forget to plug them in.

  2. adriana says:

    So how long before recyclable AAs, for instance, die permanently?

    ~ It depends. :) Here’s a good answer I found at Yahoo:
    First of all, a rechargeable battery usually doesn’t put out quite the same voltage as a good alkaline one. For most devices the difference doesn’t matter much, but it is slightly less. It also won’t put out this voltage constantly as long as an alkaline. The run-time of something powered by rechargeables will be shorter.

    You can’t recharge the batteries forever. Eventually they simply stop holding a charge. (In fact, each time you recharge it, it holds the charge ever so slightly less.) Depending upon the type and size of the battery, this can be as few as 100 recharges or up to 1000. It varies this widely and there’s no way to know how well your battery is going to perform, In fact, you could buy two “identical” rechargeable batteries and they could perform completely differently.

    Of course, he then goes on to pontificate about how toxic standard AAs are to the landfills and how our planet is going to be a gooey mess in 30 years, so he isn’t 100% accurate in his answer but the part that counts is pretty accurate.

  3. taylor_serenil says:

    Wrong kind of geekery because I was hopscotching around your archived posts, but *some* of it actually relates to this.

    According to
    Batteries Plus will accept basically anything that qualifies as a battery including “single-use”, but whether that’s actually true I don’t know. (I should find out, though, because I have a ton of AAs and AAAs and I live in a city with multiple locations. Also according to a separate post on that site, the US would have better single-use recycle options except Rayovac backed out of an multi-company-funded initiative that Energizer/Panasonic/Duracell were on board with in 2011 despite participating in virtually the same thing in Canada and Europe, and the site provides contact info for anyone who’d like to contact Rayovac and complain about that decision.)

    Home Depot and Best Buy are probably the easiest options to access for most US people who DO want to dissect that Lelo vibe and recycle the batteries. (Anybody who wants to try it, I have an Ina 2 that’s been dead for years and I’d be more than willing to sacrifice to the cause for a video of the process. I’ll even ship to you so long as you’re in the continental US.)

    Some battery-operated toys also specifically state “DO NOT use rechargeable batteries” (can’t remember offhand which one(s) but I have seen it). I’m assuming that this is because an average lithium-type rechargeable puts out about 1.2 V as compared to a standard alkaline AA or AAA which is about 1.5 V, and at *best* you’re going to get reduced power and some of my vibes probably wouldn’t even turn on if I tried using rechargeables. (Multi-battery toys tend to be the worst about this ime.)

    (Readers whose toy boxes resemble mine as far as mostly running on batteries, I think investing $6-10 in a battery strength tester is a wise maneuver. You don’t need a full-scale multimeter with probe tips and such unless you’re also using it for trades-type purposes. I *think* the first link is the one I have. Assume once your readout says 1.3 V or below that battery goes in the “probably still usable for general household purposes but very likely to make your vibe either not turn on at all, be noticeably weaker, or die at an inconvenient moment” category, and for some vibes 1.4 V might be the cutoff. Also useful for general household stuff like “is my TV remote keypad dead or do I just need new batteries?” and “okay, the battery-powered A/C thermostat screen is blank, maybe I should check the batteries before calling the pros?”)
    (has digital readout and a large number of positive reviews, have not used personally.)