For the sake of argument, how does one recycle condoms? Unused they are plastic of some sort? I know it’s a bit silly, but don’t you just hate to have to flush them and all the water that goes with?

Flavia S.
Milan, Italy

Dearest Flavia,

In brief: condoms are generally made of latex and are not recyclable. (Though the actual recyclability of Milan condoms may be a question for the Milan Recycling Bureau, not yours truly.) Used condoms would be revolting if gathered in bundles and shipped to a reclamation plant, so don’t feel sad. But do stop flushing them: in addition to wasting water, they’ll end up as sewage solids, and the sewage staff will just have to pick them out and put them in the trash themselves. More revolting. Of course, using condoms can itself be an environmentally positive act, so hurrah for that!

Uh … no.

Photo: iStockphoto.

Now I shall also use your question to assess the success of last year’s New Year’s resolutions (I know it’s a week late, but I bet you’re still working on your resolutions, too). At the beginning of 2005, I resolved not to answer questions about recycling or trash, and I did fairly well, I think. Whether any of you noticed is another issue, but I was happy to just look at questions such as this and place them in my never-opened “trash and recycle” folder.

“But why?” ye trash lovers ask. Recycling is a great gateway environmental concern, but we have bigger fish to fry, my friends. Every question I answer about recycling small consumer items — including condoms — simply encourages us all to keep worrying about recycling small consumer items. I know I’m not supposed to say this, but who cares? I mean, why spend energy on condom disposal when we could spend it on disposal of distasteful politicians?

I also tried to avoid discussing widgety objects of small consequence in 2005. Did less well there. You all are just darned good at writing enticing letters, and widgets are far more entertaining than nuclear power. Looking over the year, I did focus on some widgets, as well as the automobile, the home, and occasionally climate change. I hope a few of us cut down on our personal carbon emissions, or followed one letter-writer’s lead and adopted Kyoto for our very own.

I did not adopt Kyoto, because I was too self-absorbed. Isn’t that just the problem with us Americans? So I have resolved to be less self-absorbed for at least part of 2006. I do not yet know what Grist research resolutions will come this year, but I welcome suggestions. And I feel a quiz coming on. Like a rash.

Thank you all for reading, and may we all have smaller eco-footprints in the coming year.

Cheerily,
Umbra