Cups, water bottles, straws...What about toys? How the toy industry is tackling plastic waste

Photo by LEGO

Photo by LEGO

As Lao Tzu said: A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.

There is little data on plastic toys waste, but any mum or dad is acutely aware of the flood of toys that enter the home nowadays and how very short their lifespan is. According to EcoBirdy, a company that gives plastic toys a new life, ninety percent of toys for babies and toddlers are made out of plastic and have an average lifetime of a mere 6 months. A report issued in 2014 by the UN Environmental Programme indicates that in the UK alone, 8.5 million new and usable toys are landfilled every single year. 

We believe that a more sustainable lifestyle can only be achieved through a higher awareness of the social and environmental impact of our actions and through a step-by-step approach to change. Choosing more sustainable toys therefore becomes one of the actions that we can take to reduce our ecological footprint.

A quick search for sustainable toys immediately highlights the fact that the toy sector sadly lags far behind in terms of sustainability. There is, however, some cause for cheer as some toy brands have developed exciting new concepts to promote sustainability. One of these is Plan Toys, that creates beautiful toys made of organic rubber wood and PlanWood, a new material made using surplus wood pieces and sawdust waste from the company's manufacturing process. Plan Toys uses only preservative-free rubberwood and non-formaldehyde glues, as well as recyclable packaging and water-based inks.

Another brand that we love is EcoBirdy. Founded by Antwerp-based designers Joris Vanbriel and Vanessa Yuan, the company makes colourful furniture for children from recycled plastic toys. All pieces are made of ecothylene®, an innovative material that separates the recycled plastic by colour and gives every product an original and unique look. What we love even more about EcoBirdy is that it also works on educating kids about sustainability. The company uses a storybook “Journey to a new Life” to tell an enchanting story to raise the youngsters’ consciousness for plastic waste and its recycling. Children are then empowered to contribute to a more sustainable future by bringing old and unused toys for Ecobirdy to collect and turn into beautiful furniture. As of today EcoBirdy has collected 55 percent of the 25,000kg recycling goal they set themselves.

If buying an eco-toy means moving towards a more sustainable lifestyle, buying a second-hand toy or giving away toys to a charity remains the most eco-friendly choice. Old toys in good condition are usually accepted at charities and are then sold with a small mark-up. Among the charities that accept toys, we recommend Oxfam, The Toy Project, Bernardo’s. Hospitals too are happy to accept donations of toys and these toys are then used for young patients to play with while they're hospitalized.

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