Eth­i­cal Sex

Con­dom pro­duc­tion and some eco so­lu­tions

Good - - CONTENTS - By Jai Bre­it­nauer

Con­doms are on quite a few shop­ping lists, but how much thought do we put into the ones we buy? Af­ter all, we buy Fair­trade ba­nanas and eco­s­tore soap be­cause we are think­ing about the ethics, but when it comes to john­nies, we’re more likely to fo­cus on the fun. But they’re called ‘rub­bers’ for a rea­son – they’re made from la­tex, and un­for­tu­nately there is a whole can of con­ser­va­tion worms as­so­ci­ated with their pro­duc­tion.

Rub­ber farm­ing

Con­doms lit­er­ally grow on trees. Rub­ber trees. La­tex is a nat­u­ral rub­ber prod­uct that is usu­ally de­rived from the he­vea

brasilien­sis plant (al­though a large range of trees and plants con­tain la­tex). It’s the same as the milky white sub­stance that oozes out of a snapped dan­de­lion stem, and the process is sim­i­lar to har­vest­ing maple syrup. There are also syn­thetic rub­bers, such as neo­prene, usu­ally based on petro­chem­i­cals.

The ma­jor­ity of con­doms on the mar­ket are made from la­tex and with good rea­son. La­tex is soft, elas­tic and strong. But la­tex pro­duc­tion can also dam­age the en­vi­ron­ment and an­i­mal habi­tats.

Roughly one hectare of land is needed to grow 200 rub­ber trees, which take seven years to reach ma­tu­rity. They’re then ready to be ‘tapped’ for rub­ber and have a life cy­cle of up to 28 years.

Ac­cord­ing to Forbes, an es­ti­mated 33 bil­lion con­doms were pro­duced in 2016.

Martin Kunz, founder of the Fair Rub­ber As­so­ci­a­tion, es­ti­mates one tree can pro­vide enough rub­ber for 100,000 con­doms. So that’s po­ten­tially 330,000 rub­ber trees tak­ing up an es­ti­mated 1650 hectares per year that would be needed to sus­tain the cur­rent out­put, not to men­tion sur­gi­cal gloves, bal­loons, baby bot­tle teats and all the other la­tex prod­ucts on the mar­ket.

The big­gest pro­duc­ers of rub­ber are coun­tries such as Thai­land and Malaysia, and much of the land cleared for new plan­ta­tions is nat­u­ral for­est.

In Cam­bo­dia, ac­cord­ing to or­gan­i­sa­tion Global Wit­ness, much of the land al­lo­cated by the govern­ment for new plan­ta­tions since 2008 is pri­mary rain­for­est and home to in­dige­nous peo­ples who be­come dis­placed once the land is cleared, caus­ing hard­ship and suf­fer­ing.

An­other ma­jor is­sue is the use of ca­sein, a milk de­riv­a­tive, to help smooth la­tex. This means that many con­doms aren’t ve­gan, and there is no guar­an­tee that the cows used in milk pro­duc­tion have been kept in hu­mane con­di­tions.

Feel­ing flac­cid?

If you are feel­ing a bit, well, de­flated by all this rub­bery doom and gloom, the good news is you can take ac­tion – and it doesn’t in­clude wind­ing back your sex drive. Just like buy­ing your favourite fruit and face creams, con­doms re­quire a lit­tle bit of thought be­fore you get to the check­out. There are com­pa­nies out there do­ing their bit to safe­guard an­i­mals, the en­vi­ron­ment and the peo­ple con­nected to rub­ber farm­ing.

Top of our list is Glyde, launched in 1990 as the world’s first so­cially re­spon­si­ble con­dom man­u­fac­turer. All their la­tex is sourced from Fair­trade rub­ber farms to en­sure lo­cal work­ers are paid a liv­ing wage. They were also first cer­ti­fied ve­gan in 2006 by The Ve­gan So­ci­ety.

The plan­ta­tions they source their la­tex from in Malaysia date back to 1905 and the trees are re­placed us­ing seedlings from the orig­i­nal trees with­out clear­ing fur­ther land. Dis­trib­u­tor Glyde Health­care NZ has part­nered with Pos­i­tive Women Inc., a sup­port or­gan­i­sa­tion for fam­i­lies liv­ing with HIV/AIDs. Visit gly­de­health­ to find your near­est stock­ist. Sir Richard’s con­doms, avail­able from

cin­, are based in the United States and of­fer prod­ucts that are ve­gan and PETA cer­ti­fied. They are free from po­ten­tially harm­ful chem­i­cals com­monly found in rub­bers, such as glyc­er­ine.

Launched in 2009 by Mathew Ger­son, they also do­nate one con­dom for every con­dom pur­chased to some­one in need in the de­vel­op­ing world. They are com­mit­ted to high lev­els of an­i­mal and en­vi­ron­men­tal stew­ard­ship.

Sus­tain, an­other Amer­i­can brand, is the brain­child of fa­ther-daugh­ter team Meika and Jef­frey Hol­len­der, who wanted to of­fer eth­i­cal, or­ganic and safe prod­ucts that would ap­peal to women.

They source their la­tex from Fair­trade-cer­ti­fied plan­ta­tions, and they’re also ve­gan. Im­por­tantly, they do­nate 10 per cent of their prof­its to or­gan­i­sa­tions that pro­vide re­pro­duc­tive health­care and fam­ily-plan­ning ser­vices to low-in­come women in the US. Avail­able from evi­ta­

Aus­tralian com­pany Hero Con­doms is also com­mit­ted to im­prov­ing sex­ual health in the de­vel­op­ing world, and have do­nated more than 500,000 con­doms to Botswana to date. They are work­ing to­wards be­com­ing a car­bon-neu­tral com­pany, and they man­u­fac­ture their con­doms us­ing so­lar power, wa­ter re­cy­cling and re­cy­cled pack­ag­ing. Hero con­doms are avail­able from Count­down su­per­mar­kets.

Last, but not cer­tainly not least, don’t for­get the lube – wa­ter-based, as oil-based ones aren’t com­pat­i­ble with la­tex. Bonk Lube is a New Zealand-owned-and-op­er­ated com­pany man­u­fac­tur­ing BioGro-cer­ti­fied or­ganic lu­bri­cants that are easy on your bits as well as the en­vi­ron­ment. Visit bon­ for more.

Safe sex should be at the fore­front of ev­ery­one’s mind, and la­tex con­doms are still the safest way to en­joy each other. By choos­ing brands with an em­pha­sis on ethics you can also help safe­guard the en­vi­ron­ment, sup­port an­i­mal wel­fare, put a stop to op­pres­sive work­ing con­di­tions and pro­mote good sex­ual health prac­tices among women and in the de­vel­op­ing world. Now that’s a real turn on.

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