Plastic is lightweight, flexible, and colourful, but it is also economical and fast to produce. These are the main reasons why there are so many plastic products and an increase in plastic waste.
Although there is a lot of research has been done into plastic packaging waste, little is known about the impact of hard plastic.
A UNEP report from 2014 caught our attention when it stated: “the toy industry belong[s] to the group that uses plastic the most intensively in products” (Source: UNEP Valuing plastics)
As we know, plastic packaging creates a lot of waste but when we buy a bottle of water, the mass of the plastic is only about 2% of its total weight.
Plastic toys, however, are almost entirely made of hard plastic.
For instance, a toy kitchen contains 5.6 kg of valuable plastic, the equivalent of 400 empty plastic water bottles.
Or 150 bottles to equal a pushbike.
Short life-time products
Recycling plastic packaging is important, but recycling plastic toys seems to be an absolute necessity.
Children grow fast. Their abilities and interests shift even faster, especially in their first years of life. Therefore, toys are often thrown away after a short lifespan.
Top 5 toys at home are mainly made from plastic (PE or PP)
At the beginning of 2017, we conducted a survey in Belgium with parents who had young children. This survey confirmed that 90% of the most popular toys are made entirely out of plastic.
The most frequently used plastic materials in toys were Polyethylene and Polypropylene. The majority of parents answered that they did not know what to do with the plastic toys at the end of their product life.
Because toys are a mixture of different materials, they are mostly considered general waste. Not every container site recycles hard plastics. Toys often end up in landfills or are incinerated.