Even though July is almost over, we wanted to take the opportunity to add our bit to the #plasticfreejuly movement:
Firstly, consider how much rubbish we create: In Auckland alone, each household sends 144kg of rubbish to landfill every day – that’s 200,000 tonnes of rubbish across the whole city, for every year. Across New Zealand, almost 2.5million tonnes of rubbish was sent to landfill in 2011. That’s a lot of rubbish! Auckland Council, and other councils New Zealand wide, have implemented a zero waste plan meaning that they aim to make Auckland, and other cities, waste-free by 2040 – what an awesome goal! There are so many things we as individuals can do to reduce our household waste, like reducing what we buy, reusing what we have already bought or at least recycling waste materials properly.
Now let’s look at the impact toys have on the environment: In New Zealand, it is estimated that $135million (USD) will be spent on toys in 2018. That’s a lot of toys filling New Zealand homes! An estimated 90% of those toys tend to be inexpensive and vibrantly coloured plastic toys. These plastic toys pose the same risks as any other plastic item, they often have shorter life spans than high quality toys and are pretty much impossible to recycle.
Cheap plastic toys that get thrown away have often been dubbed “landfill toys”: Even though they are cheap to buy, they tend to end up in landfill because they are poorly made and therefore break, melt, lose pieces/colour and simply won’t stand the test of time to be used by multiple children. For one thing, this puts a lot of strain on our environment. On the other hand, children are disappointed that the toys didn’t last longer for them to play with. They also learn that things are just thrown away if they break and you can buy a cheap new version of it – not a great lesson considering we want to teach kids to be aware of the impact we have on the environment.
So finally, here are our top tips for reducing “toy waste”:
- Buy high quality toys that will last for many years (and many kids) to come: This might mean spending a bit more upfront but you will a) know you got a great quality product that is safe to use for your child and has been rigorously tested, and b) know that you won’t need to dispose of it anytime soon and thereby create less waste! The most environmentally friendly toy is one that doesn’t end up getting thrown away ever and stays in use.
- Hand down toys in your family: In line with the point above, a toy that is well made can be passed down from one child to the next. For example, if your first-born has outgrown his/her balance bike, pass it on to the next child. If you want to make it a bit more special for child #2, scrub it nice and clean and repaint it in your second child’s favourite colour! It’ll look like a brand new one without you having to spend anything (or much if you repaint it) and your second one will feel over the moon with his/her “own, new” bike!
Keep toys in the cycle: If your child is now too old for many of his/her toys, think about ways in which you can save them from being thrown into the rubbish. Some ideas:
- Pass toys on to other, younger family members or your friends’ kids
- Donate them – for example to a charity, op shop, PlayCentre, your child’s ECE centre or Plunket for their playrooms, etc.
- Sell them – attend a local second-hand baby/kids market to sell all the things you and your kids don’t need anymore; list toys on Facebook marketplace, TradeMe, etc.
- Store good quality toys for future generations in your family: I know, you will probably not be thinking of your children’s kids yet at all… but you know what? How awesome would it be to keep your children’s favourite toys until they have kids and then pass those on to them? My kids still use the Duplo blocks I played with as a child – they were stacked away for years and years but still look as new (even though they moved halfway across the globe, too)! No need for us to buy new ones and it’s awesome to see my kids playing with the toys I had when I was little. So if you have special toys that are well made, store them somewhere safe (dry!) for your grandchildren!
Those are our top tips for making the most of your toys and for reducing the amount of toys that is sent to landfill! If you have any other tips, we’d love to hear them – feel free to share them in the comments below. We hope this blog post has given you something to think about and some ideas that you can use to ensure the well-being of future generations!