With such a huge focus on green products at the moment, it’s easy for people to place blame on certain industries. And unfortunately, the children’s industries are an easy target.
A large proportion of modern toys are created from plastic, there is often a large amount of packaging to allow try-me functions and such like, and as favourite brands come and go, there are reports of a huge amount of toys and children’s products being sent to landfill.
What’s often not seen, however, is that our industry is making great strides into becoming more green. Many companies are looking to reduce or eliminate the use of single-use plastics, often sourcing plant-based materials, and reducing packaging, and/or using recycled or recyclable materials for this.
Le Toy Van creates its wooden products using rubberwood and has pledged to make most of its packaging from biodegradable materials. The firm plans to be plastic free by 2021 and is sourcing biodegradable plant-based alternatives for the small amount of plastic currently used in its products.
Along similar lines, Jumbo Games has recently launched an Eco Games range, using 100% recycled paper, cardboard and plastics. The company also now manufactures all its jigsaw puzzles from fully recycled cardboard.
Twoey Toys also uses raw materials from sustainable sources to manufacture its products. The firm also considers materials and weight during the design and development stages, the minimal packaging is designed using as much recycled material as possible.
On a larger scale, Plan Toys is a company whose entire ethos is based on sustainability. It has always created its products from sustainable sources, placing a great emphasis on eco-friendly practices. PlanToys are made from rubberwood trees that no longer produce latex, along with PlanWood, a safe, sustainable material. The company also uses non-formaldehyde glue, and its printed materials use soy ink on recycled paper.
We’re thrilled to see these companies along with some big players such as LEGO, Hasbro and MGA working to reduce waste and utilise more sustainable materials.
But the issue runs deeper than recyclable packaging and rubber wood; we believe a full 360 approach needs to be taken here.
The Good Toy Guide was established to help parents find their way around the huge offering of toys available in order to find Good Toys with robust play value, benefits for children’s development and the all-important fun factor. Educating families helps them pick the right toys, in turn ensuring children enjoy the toys and play with them rather than them being discarded and soon added to the toy graveyard.
But educating parents is just one part of the process. It’s time that we, as an industry, ensure that we are always creating toys with all these benefits in order to get and keep children engaged and enjoying them.
There are some great children’s products on the market, as can be seen in the Good Toy Guide, but overall we need to get better at focussing on play value, and marketing those benefits to consumers. When we create toys in this way, they are likely to be passed down from generation to generation, reducing waste, but also building strong brand loyalty among consumers.
There are many simple but effective ways that can be employed to help lengthen the life of toys and other children’s products, and in turn, build brand loyalty. We have the opportunity to educate little ones about sustainability through their toys. Plan Toys, for example, tries to educate its customers about why it is important. The company recently launched a Wonky Fruit and Vegetables range to educate children about food waste, for example.
Another easy but brilliant idea is Orchard Toys’ free parts and replacement service. An initiative which costs very little, but makes the difference between a discarded or much-loved and played game. Twoey Toys also offers a replacement parts service for the life of the product.
Another idea is to reuse waste to create play items. A recent experiment by a Bristol-based nursery who removed all the toys from its setting proved that with fewer toys, children’s imaginations come to the fore and they play with things like boxes, tins and pine cones.
Although not particularly beneficial for the industry, there are ways to incorporate this approach into manufacturing. Junko has done exactly that and based its range entirely on recycling rubbish. The junk modelling system uses connectors to allow children to create new toys from trash, sparking imaginative play, and helping to reduce waste at the same time.
It’s come to a point where we need to think more strategically about product development. There are some brilliant plastic toys on the market which provide hours of play, but they would be even better if created from sustainable materials. There are also some sustainable toys which wouldn’t last five minutes with most children, so the design needs more thought about play value, for example. We need to create sustainable, good quality, fun toys, and educate parents and gift givers about them in order to create a fully eco-friendly industry.