Should we worry about what plastic toys are doing to our environment?
One of the biggest joys of being a parent is handing your child a new toy. Seeing that little smile and abundance of joy on their face as they go off and play with it fills our hearts with joy. As parents, we also think about our kids future and care about the environment they live in. But have you ever considered the effects of the plastic toys they own have on their environment? The toy industry in the UK is a massive £3.4bn. Nearly every industry: electronics, fashion, medical devices, packaging and toys use plastics since 1957. Plastic is one of the most used materials in the world due to its low cost to manufacturing it into products. The UK uses 275,000 tonnes of plastic each year. Toys account for a noticeable percentage of it but not only toys, also the packaging they come with. To protect the toy, more often than not, the toy maker uses excessive amounts of plastic. This plastic ends up in the bin once opened.
According to www.org single use plastics account for 67% of plastics consumption in the UK. With only 31% of plastic waste being recycled (estimated in 2018), so where does it end up? Unfortunately large amounts of single use plastics end up in our oceans, harming our precious sea life. Some types of plastics can take up to 450 years to break down! Even if the plastic is biodegradable or does break down in less than 450 years it only breaks down into micro plastics. These plastics then end up on the stomach of animals killing wildlife and harming the environment. Sir David Attenborough brought this issue (plastics in the oceans) to the public attention brilliantly in the BBC documentary Blue Planet II in 2017.
Why are plastic toys not recyclable?
This is typically because plastic toys are made up of multiple parts. Mixed plastics/materials are un-recyclable as part of UK home recycle collection. Take for example a plastic lorry toy with flashing lights. It contains batteries, electronics and other materials to hold it together. This can be recyclable but you would need to dismantle the different parts. Even if you do go to all the effort of doing this, it is most likely it will still end up in landfill due to other issues with recycling plastic toys (the glue and adhesives used to hold parts of the toy together contaminate the plastic and the recycle centres reject it).
What’s the cost of plastic?
Plastic toys dominate the market, they are an attractive choice as most of them are quite cheap. The average price paid for a toy in the UK is £9.70 according to toyfair and it’s clear why. This also has a negative effect because the quality is typically low, leading to a short life.
In over 5 years experience in manufacturing and quality, It saddens me to see it happen when a factories producing something for a low budget market. They make it as cheap as possible not caring about the quality or the lifetime of that part. Even good quality plastics toys will break and typically people don’t repair toys, just replaces them with a new one. Even if they don’t break, it’s still likely it will have a short lifetime due to having a single use and the child loosing interest in it. It is not ideal to buy second-hand toys or even pass them on to family or friends. These maybe because the value of buying a new one is as cheap, the used toy looking like its on the edge of breaking or is no longer in fashion. Also because of the chemicals used in manufacturing, but this is a topic for a whole new blog coming soon. Toyfair also show the average household spends just under £400 a child on toys per year, so as parents do we also have a throwaway mentality when it comes to toys? Out kids get board of a toy we buy them another toy to keep them occupied. how is this perceived through their eyes and apply the same mentality to friendships, relationships and their environment.
What about wooden toys?
Wooden toys are an eco friendly and sustainable alternative to plastic toys. Wood is biodegradable, extremely durable and more likely to be passed on down the family or to friends. They also typically more desirable and valuable so are more likely to sell second hand than a plastic equivalents toy offering longer term value to the parent. Some companies are making smart business choices to remove plastic packaging so that plastic is not entering landfill or oceans (plastic takes 10 to 1000 years to decompose).
Toys made and packaged with FSC materials are sustainably sourced. Providing reassurance that the wood comes with a deep consideration for wildlife, people and the environment. Toys made with high quality, hard wearing natural materials and colours symbolises timelessness, authenticity and refinement. Also provide children with a contemporary educational and simple fun toy. From a Montessori view, children respond to the beauty of natural materials such as wood, glass and metals. Young children absorb and remember every subtle difference of their early home environment. By creating harmonious and beautiful surroundings it will last in their hearts and memories for years to come.
What do you think? Is sustainable toy market still a very niche market compared to plastic toy? If buying sustainable toys isn’t an option for you would you think of buying less plastic toys? or trading plastic toys for with nature exploration with your kids? Hope you have enjoyed this. Please like, follow and share your thoughts with us. Love, live and nurture young minds.