Choosing New Toy Materials: Homegrown BioPlastics, Organic Plastics, and Recyled Plastics
Begin Again Since its conception in 2011, Begin Again has been creating eco-friendly, battery-free high-quality toys for children with sustainable wood, bio-plastics and natural rubbers, combining the playful power of plants and sustainability. Hardwood rubberwood is sourced from sustainable forests in Brazil and Asia, for their puzzles, playsets, and stacking toys. Natural rubber derived from the hardwood of the Hevea Brasiliensis tree, is used for Begin Again bath toys. Cornstarch rubber is used in teething toys, from a new bio-plastic derived from corn, which is a PVC alternative NON-GMO sourced material, and it is 100% compostable, and certified for USA and European standards. Main Rock Maple wood is used for infant teethers as a safe, non-splintering wood source. Water-based stains color products safely and naturally, keeping paints out of the mouths of children.
Luke’s Toy Factory uses home-grown bio-plastics, comprised of an organic wood composite combined with plastic to make products with 40% less plastic than the average toy. They manufacture a full range of toys in Connecticut, while sourcing materials from other states (including maple sawdust reclaimed from furniture mills in North Carolina and a wood-plastic mixture from Michigan). Its Classic collection features toys that are molded in color, rather than it being painted on, and each toy — which is also a 3D stacking puzzle — contains 30% less plastic than a traditional toy truck in this scale. They have increased the variety of organic materials that they use in manufacturing, and have expanded beyond its Classic line, with the Naturals and Hybrids collections. The Naturals collection includes coconut shells, flax fiber, rice hulls, and walnut shells in its mixture, while the Hybrids mix the bright colors of the Classics collection with various fibers from the Naturals line.
Green Toys also sources locally as much as possible, with the goal of reducing the carbon footprint of its supply chain. Green Toys maintains a tight, local supply chain in its mission to craft high-quality toys and other products. Local recycling and local production also provides local jobs, diverts re-cyclable waste from landfills, reduces greenhouse gases, saves energy and reduces material transportation costs. From plastic boats, stacking cups, and wagons created using materials including recycled milk jugs and yogurt containers to board books. 100 percent recyclable cardboard is used for toy packaging, which is crafted from 100% recycled paper and cardboard printed with soy ink. These soy inks bio-degrade 4 times faster than petroleum-based inks. The entire workflow of Green Toys keeps raw materials from winding up in landfills. Green Toys will release three new additions to its line of toys in 2020 that are free of BPA, phthalates, and PVC. The Cargo Plane, Fire Plane, and Shape Sorter Truck are the latest additions.
Circular Economy: Re-use, Re-cycle, Up-cycle
These concepts of re-cycling, re-using and up-cycling are not new. Yet the applications from the companies below are innovative twists on environmentally friendly product solutions.
Turkish Manufacturer TOYI is a newer player in the toy industry and focuses on creating opportunities for imaginative play, with a few idea-starters. Their products are based on the concept of un-structured play. Using a child’s imagination with found materials is a kick-starter for fun. It provides open-ended options for children to explore at their own pace and to build self-esteem with their play creations. There are simply three play kits, small, large, and group play. Add imagination, some recycled materials and create fun experiences and conscious consumers.
Marioinex This family-owned and family-run manufacturer in Poland has introduced a cloth re-usable bag with their tactile construction products. This encourages kids to pass the playthings along, once a child outgrows it, so future generations can also re-build and create. Promoting re-use of products encourages kids to learn that they can support paying it forward to other kids, maintaining a heritage toy mentality, promoting charitable giving and avoiding the throw-away mentality.
Little Tikes‘ Go Green Collection of toys is made from recycled plastic and the packaging is made of recycled materials to reduce the impact on the planet. Made in Ohio, the new toy lineup launched on Earth Day 2020, (April 22, 2020) and includes the Cozy Truck with Trailer, Jr. Play Slide, Cozy Tractor, and Toy Chest.
Eco-Bricks by Once-Kids: These eco-friendly bricks use tactile wooden clickable bamboo bricks for a different experience, for classic building play. Once-Kids develop natural, heirloom-quality precision-carved natural wood toys (never composite). "O.N.C.E." stands for organic, natural, charitable, and eco-friendly. Once-Kids products are environmentally friendly, biodegradable, non-toxic and made from a renewable bamboo resource. Once-Kids has teamed up with the Ocean Conservancy to contribute 1% of all sales to the Trash Free Seas Alliance®.
With all of these new ways to play and imagine, toymakers are making it easier and easier for people to play and claim steps to a sustainable future. Follow the path to enlightenment!