One of the main reasons people decide to transition to a zero-waste lifestyle is to keep trash out of landfills. Landfilled items can take centuries to biodegrade, all while landfills leak toxic chemicals into the ground and waterways. And although seasoned zero wasters can agree on how to properly discard most everyday items, the proper disposal method of the used condom is an eternal debate.
With Valentine's Day coming up, some new to the zero-waste lifestyle may be wondering: are condoms compostable? Here's what experts have said on the matter.
What are condoms made of?
Condoms can be made from a wide variety of ingredients, which means you'll want to read the product label first. Some condoms are made with lambskin, while others contain casein, which comes from cow's milk, which means they aren't vegan, according to Very Well Health. Others are made with irritants such as nonoxynol-9, a preservative that can cause UTIs. A common ingredient is also latex, a common allergen — so it's something you'll want to discuss with your partner beforehand.
Some condoms also contain parabens and other chemicals that are considered to be potentially harmful. Parabens are thought to increase the risk of cancer by disrupting hormonal activity, and they're also believed to affect sperm quality and quantity. That said, there are certain brands that make vegan condoms, such as LOLA, and all-natural, chemical free condoms, such as GLYDE, that ensure you're making a healthy choice for your body.
So, let's settle this debate: are condoms compostable?
The answer regarding condom's compostability is widely debated — according to certain sources, such as Only Natural Energy, zero wasters and eco enthusiasts alike can, in fact, put condoms in the compost heap, if they are 100-percent natural latex. If that's the case, and as long as they're paraben- and chemical-free, your latex condom can supposedly biodegrade with everything else safely. If that's the case, natural brands such as Sustain Natural could be fine in your outdoor compost heap.
However, Package Free Shop, which also sells 100 percent natural latex condoms, notes on their website that used condoms, regardless of the materials' biodegradability, are deemed a class 2 medical device by the FDA, and should be sent to a landfill to avoid contamination. The packaging for theirs is extra sustainable — with recyclable paper, a recyclable polypropylene cup, and a reusable aluminum tin which is recyclable with metals, though, so you won't have to feel too bad about it.
Ultimately, it's your choice to decide on how to discard your condoms — if you're comfortable having an all-natural "class 2 medical device" in your compost, it's probably fine, as it will ultimately break down, but we have no serious qualms with throwing it in landfill trash. At the end of the day, ensuring that you're engaging in safe sex (with safe products!) is really the only thing that matters, and that used rubber is really only a minor contribution to the Earth's waste.