Moving Towards a More Sustainable Playtime

When we reflect on our childhoods, certain toys and the special memories we had with those toys often come to mind. That one Hot Wheels race track you spent hours with on a rainy day. Or maybe the Barbie Dreamhouse where Barbie spent many hours being both an astronaut and a princess. But have you ever stopped to think about where those toys have ended up now?

If they weren’t donated or handed down, there is a good chance they’ve ended up in a landfill.

In recent years, many big-name brands have made the leap towards improving the sustainability of their toys.

Mattel recently launched its PlayBack program, which gives unwanted Barbie, Matchbox, and MEGA toys a second chance at playtime by being recycled and turned into a new Mattel toy. This program is now available in Canada, and all you have to do is mail your unwanted toys back to Mattel using a free prepaid shipping label from its website.

In addition, Mattel just released its “Barbie Loves The Ocean” collection, which is made from 90% plastic that would have otherwise ended up in the ocean. The plastic being sourced for these dolls comes from Envision Plastics in Mexico’s Baja peninsula.1 Making toys by removing plastic from our oceans, and then later recycling those toys to make something new, helps keep toys in the toybox and out of our landfills and waterways. That’s the power of a circular economy!

“Our sustainability efforts represent the next step in Barbie’s social mission and evolution. To truly show the next generation they can be anything, we must do our part in protecting the planet, reducing our environmental impact, and promoting sustainable everyday behaviors.” Lisa McKnight, senior vice president at Mattel and global head of the company’s Barbie and Dolls portfolio2

Using the Barbie brand to showcase how anyone can make sustainable choices will surely inspire the next generation to continue making more eco-friendly choices in the future.

Another company moving towards a circular economy is Lego. Lego’s Replay program collects unwanted bricks and donates them to schools, keeping them out of landfills and under people’s feet where they belong! This program is also available in Canada and involves Lego sending you a free shipping label in order to participate.

Lego also recently revealed new toy bricks made from recycled plastic bottles1.

That’s not all! In August 2019, “Hasbro pledged to stop using plastic packaging by the end of 2022, and Mattel in December, 2019 set a goal for itself of 100% recycled, recyclable, or bio-based plastics in all of its products and packaging by 2030.”3

In addition, Disney is going plastic free with its doll packaging. Now made with sustainably sourced paper, the box the doll comes in is now a part of playtime, since it converts into both a fabulous backdrop as well as a storage unit when it’s time to put the toys away.4 

Now all of these changes are great, but were these changes even needed?

The answer is YES!

Ninety percent of toys are made of plastic and most of the packaging is single-use and non-recyclable plastic,” says Dune Ives, CEO of Lonely Whale.

In fact, toys use “40 tons of plastic for every $1 million in revenue”1. With such a huge plastic footprint, any and every change that a toy company makes to use less plastic is always welcome! This is especially important since the plastic used in these toys does not break down quickly. Lego bricks themselves can survive in the ocean for 1,300 years1!

So, if you have any unwanted toys that are looking for a new start on life, check to see if any of these programs are available where you live. Otherwise, you can always donate them to places in your community, such as schools or daycares.

And if you are looking to add to your toybox, invest in toys made of bamboo! Beautiful and durable, they represent a more sustainable and healthier playtime option. There are many brands online, but you can also find the HAPE brand at your local Mastermind Toys.

So let’s make the future fun and get playing!

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