Earth-Kind Toys: A Simple How-To
"I want to be more eco-friendly in my toy choices, but I don't know where to start."
I hear you! It's great you want to do better.
Making 90% of toys from petroleum (plastic), and shipping 90% of them from far away, releases so much CO2 we'd need to plant 1 billion trees to absorb it. Meanwhile most of them get lightly used and not recycled, rather end-up in landfill or incineration.
So, there's a lot of good we can all do by choosing more eco with our kids' toys. Here are some simple principles to guide you: reduce, reuse, recycle.
We can't all do it all, all the time - but let's all do something, as much as we can. Make the goal better, not perfect.
1. ReduceAim for fewer, better toys that get used more often for more years - not just for your family but for the one you pass the toy on to:
- Manage close friends and family's gifts with suggestions, wishlists (our website offers this), "all chip-in to buy 1 better gift s/he will actually use";
- "Strictly no gifts" party invitations - divert people's generosity to a charity donation, a home-made gift, or €5 in a card instead, if necessary;
- Choose well-made, sturdy, open-ended (so they appeal to more age groups), electronics-free (to avoid that "broken unfixable toy"), and, where relevant, machine-washable;
- Natural or recycled materials - wood, cardboard, bioplastic, or certified-safe recycled plastic from a producer you trust; and
- Made as locally to you as possible. So few toys are made in Ireland, we define 'local' as 'made in Europe' - vastly closer than China, where 80% of all toys are made.
- 95% of toys in our toystore meet both these criteria, and the other 5% are clearly indicated in CAPITALS in the product title :-).
Minimise trash by choosing toys with plastic-free packaging. Cardboard, paper, home-compostable films like NatureFlex, and sometimes nothing at all, are totally sufficient to pack most every toy in our experience. Wet products like playdough and paint are a challenge - recycled plastic, or glass, or recycled (not virgin) Aluminium are the best we've found so far.
Tell toy retailers and toy producers what you like and what you wish they would change! They do listen.
- Get toys pre-loved from friends and family (check older relatives' attics!), on Adverts.ie, your local Facebook freecycle group, or join Preloved Toys Ireland - Imagine, Create, Build Facebook group;
- Borrow / rent toys...ownership is over-rated! Check our Irish toy libraries map below;
- Extend the lifetime of the toy in your home by rotating, cleaning, and repairing:
- Rotate: put, say, half the toys away for a month, then swap, to maintain the child's interest;
- Repair: Sew-up soft toys yourself (helpful video), use repair materials like FixIts or Sugru to mend hard toys, or send to the Doll's Hospital;
- Keep in clean - tips here.
- When you're done, if they're still playable-with, re-home them:
- With friends / family
- Offer on your local Facebook freecycle group
- Sell on Adverts.ie or on Preloved Toys Ireland - Imagine, Create, Build Facebook group
- As a last resort offer to a charity shop - it's harder for them to match each toy with a good new home and much of what they take-in ends-up being dumped.
Irish toy libraries
...that we know of - please let us know of others to add!
- Pink = anyone can use (and many of these post nationwide)
- Blue = Only available when you're referred by an Occupational Therapist for a child with special needs
3. At end of life, recycleIs the toy really no longer suitable for kids to use it? OK let's at least get its materials reused:
- Soft toys are welcomed by some dogs' shelters. Failing that, recycle them as textiles - put into a textile bank, or give in a bag marked "for textile recycling" to a charity shop that sells textiles to a recycling company (ask first if they do this). See MyWaste.ie guidance here.
- Electrical toys: recycle the batteries (MyWaste.ie guidance here), recycle the battery pack as electrical waste (MyWaste.ie guidance here), and the rest of the toy as a soft or hard-plastic toy, as relevant.
- Hard-plastic toys (including bioplastic) and wooden toys: bring to your local civic amenity centre. If they're single-material, they can be shredded and downcycled into new plastic products. See MyWaste.ie guidance here.
I try and keep the end of the toy's life in mind when buying a new toy!
We love to learn, if you have suggestions or experiences to share please do!