Plastic-free why?

Avoiding plastic is a very powerful way to support our planet (and care for our kids). Here are 3 reasons why:

1. Avoiding plastic saves a lot of pollution and carbon emissions:
  • Plastic is made from petroleum
  • Extracting petroleum from the ground can be very destructive: fracking, felling forests, oil spills.
  • Then refining and processing it into plastic releases 6kg CO2 per 1kg plastic:
    • This alone is 3/4 of LEGO's carbon footprint;
    • To absorb the CO2 released by the $80 billion of plastic toys made globally each year would take 1 billion trees*.
    • Just for toys bought in Ireland, we'd have to plant 3.6 million trees to absorb the CO2 released making them from plastic.
      • That’s 4 trees for every child;
      • EasyTreesie is a huge effort to plant 1 million trees by 2023; so we’d need 4 of these programmes;
      • Just to offset the carbon footprint of our toys - before offsetting flights, driving, fossil fuel energy generation, plastic in other industries, animal agriculture, etc.
    • The Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimates use of plastic causes 6% of all global CO2 emissions.

2. Natural materials are much safer for children:
  • Some plastics (e.g., PVC) and some chemicals that make them (e.g., phthalates), are toxic and even carcinogenic;
  • A 2017 test by 4 EU countries of 104 Chinese-made toys found illegal levels in over 30%;
  • A 2017 report by ProSafe shows 17 EU and EEA authorities checked 255 toys and 20% failed, with phthalates the most common chemical found. Here's the breakdown:
    • Plastic dolls – of 121 samples, 33 failed;
    • Bath/squeezable toys – of 30 samples, 7 failed;
    • Plastic books – of 34 samples, 0 failed; and
    • Inflatable toys – of 70 samples, 10 failed.
3. Most plastic toys are mixed materials and can't be recycled --> destined for landfill, or incineration (or worse, for our oceans).

So it's clear that in the future, toys like everything else will need to move-on from new plastic. See our other blog posts for more on what, how, and where!
Why is it important to choose plastic-free toys?90% of toys are plasticIt'd take 1 billion trees to absorb the carbon released by producing new plastic toysPVC and phthalates in molded plastic toys are toxic even carcinogenicMost plastic toys are mixed materials so can't be recycled
* Here's how we estimated this:
  • Global toy production is $90 billion (source: Statistica)
  • 90% of new toys are new plastic (source: Plastics Europe, association of plastics manufacturers)
  • Average kg of plastic per $ spent on toys is 0.05, based on a sample from www.amazon.com
  • Producing 1 kg new plastic emits 6 kg CO2:
    • Producing 1 kg of polyethylene (PET or LDPE) requires 2 kg of oil for energy and raw material (see here); and
    • Burning 1 kg of oil creates about 3 kg CO2 (see offline carbon footprint calculator).
    • 2 kg oil * (3 kg CO2 per kg oil) = 6 kg CO2 per kg new plastic
  • 1 tree can absorb 22 kg of CO2 per year (source: Carbonify)
  • $90 billion * 90% * 0.05 kg/$ * 6 / 22 kg = 1.1 billion trees

* Second calculation from a different starting point (triangulation):

  • "The global toy industry uses 40 tons plastic per $1 million revenue." - UNEP report 2014 “Valuing plastics”
  • (40 tons * 907kg per ton * 6kg CO2 per kg plastic * $90 billion total revenue) / (22kg absorbed per tree * per $1 million revenue) = 890 million trees

** How we calculated for Ireland:

  • Republic of Ireland toy market 2015 = €215 million = $275 million (source: Gameplan Europe)
  • Republic of Ireland GDP per capita 2015 = $63,000; GDP 2020 = $84,000 (source: MacroTrends). Upsize the toy market proportionally to get a 2020 estimate of $366 million
  • $366 million * 890 million trees / $90 billion global market = 3.6 million trees