Plastic Toys: It’s not all fun and games

Day 152 – One of my least favorite toys that I had to assemble for my children was a kitchen. A rather large, plastic kitchen. All the pieces were attached and had to be separated before they could be reassembled to resemble a kitchen set. I did it all by myself on a Christmas Eve and it was absolutely the worst. However, the kids loved it! And when it’s all said and done, isn’t that what it’s all about?

Well, I sure drank the KoolAid on that misconception. Most of us don’t give much thought about the cheap, plastic toys we purchase for our children or young people in our lives. Our main concern is usually their happiness. So, we spend our money on toys that will most likely not even last a year and will end up in the trash.

About 90% of today’s toys are made from plastic. Sadly, most of the plastic is not recyclable. Think about the plastic toys you played with as a kid. Those same toys are still sitting in a landfill somewhere and will be there for centuries to come.

So, what are our options when looking to purchase toys?

Find toys made from other materials, like wood, cotton, metal or natural rubber

Companies like Big Future Toys and Begin Again Toys are finding other ways to produce fun and entertaining toys without the use of plastic.

Find toys made from recycled material

Companies like Green Toys and Luke’s Toy Factory are using recycled material to create their toys.

Find toys with take back programs

Numerous toy manufacturers are taking back their toys. If you have toys that have reached the end of their life, from any of the following companies, you can ship them, at no cost, to be recycled. Be sure to check out the list of accepted toys for each program.

Hasbro

V-Tech

Leap Frog

SpinMaster

Matel

Lego

*The Northcenter Neighborhood Association Recycle Popup collects all the toys listed here. The next popup is June 19th.

Find alternatives to toys

Another great option to avoid plastic toys, is to give the gift of an experience. Maybe it’s a trip to the bowling alley, or the arcade. A movie with all the popcorn and candy you can eat, a hike in a beautiful wooded area, or a day at the waterpark, would all make awesome gifts.

So, the next time you are faced with the challenge of finding that perfect gift consider avoiding the cheap plastic toys. There are so many great alternatives out there. You just need to look.

Tomorrow, a company that has found a purpose for the plastic from discarded children toys.

No One Wants Your Broken Stuff

Day 128 – Many people try to avoid throwing things away. They don’t want to add to the endless piles of trash that end up in the landfill. Unfortunately, the next option (for some) is to donate those items. They get boxed up and dropped off at the nearest donation center. Unfortunately, no one wants your broken stuff and all those “donations” end up exactly where you were hoping they would not, in the landfill.

In a recent NPR article, a Goodwill store spokesperson in New Hampshire was interviewed. She oversees 30 Goodwill stores in New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. Their trash bill adds up to around $1 million a year with about $13 million pounds of waste. This is just one organization, in only three states. Multiply those numbers by thousands of organizations across the country and you have an astronomical amount of waste. Waste that no one cares about or gives a second thought about, because it’s believed it has all gone to a “good cause.”

“A lampshade, which is stained and disgusting and literally falling apart. There’s a small table missing a leg, cracked purple food-storage containers and a used sponge. They’re just a representative sample of the useless stuff dropped off the day before.” – Heather Steeves (Goodwill spokesperson)

Goodwill and other organizations will try to recycle what they can, but when people are donating, what can only be described as trash, then it becomes very difficult.

On Day 72, I shared a list of over 90 items that Best Buy will take and recycle. The City of Chicago has a Household Chemicals & Computer Recycling Facility that accepts numerous items. Click HERE for the complete list of accepted items. I have shared how to recycle clothes and shoes that are not fit for donation. Sometimes a simple Google search can send you in the right direction when looking for a recycler, because your items are not worth donating.

I saw first hand, when volunteering at Cradles to Crayons, the amount of donated waste. The kids and I were put in the toy section. A majority of the donated toys were not considered acceptable. Games with missing pieces, deflated balls, nonworking electronic toys, dolls and action figures missing limbs, random happy meal toys, were just some of the discarded toys. I ended up coming home with two large boxes of toys that were going to end up in the trash. This was just a two hour shift. I can’t even begin to imagine the amount of toys thrown out on a daily basis. I have purchased a Zero Waste Box from TerraCycle to recycle the unwanted toys. TerraCycle has partnered with Hasbro, V-Tech, Leap Frog, Spin Master and L.O.L. Surprise to recycle their toys. You can always drop any of these toys at the monthly Northcenter Neighborhood Association Recycling Popup.

Heather from Goodwill suggests, “The key question to ask before dropping something off is: If you needed it, would you buy it in this condition?”

Tomorrow, supporting fair trade.