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The Circular Economy of Toys

Marie Kondo tells us that ‘the best way to choose what to keep and what to throw away is to take each item in one’s hand and ask: “Does this spark joy?” If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it.’ But with more than two billion tonnes of waste being sent to landfill by households annually, how we dispose of the things we once loved is of utmost importance.

Toys are prime examples of items that are designed to ‘spark joy’ but often end up as waste when a child’s play interests change. The value of the global toy market exceeded USD 90 billion in 2019 but with 80% of all toys ending up in landfill, incinerators, or the ocean much of this value is lost when toys are thrown away. In France alone, more than 40 million toys end up as waste each year, and in the UK almost a third of parents have admitted to throwing away toys in good working order because their children has finished playing with them.

With waste and pollution causing damage to the environment and to our health, and valuable materials being lost from the economy, many toymakers are rethinking the future of their business. This involves redesigning not only how toys are made and played with, but also toy ownership. Together, these are critical steps towards a circular economy. In a circular economy, manufacturers design products to be reusable. For example, electrical devices are designed in such a way that they are easier to repair. Products and raw materials are also reused as much as possible. For example by recycling plastics into pellets for making new plastic products.

A circular economy is restorative and regenerative by design. This means materials constantly flow around a 'closed loop' system, rather than being used once and then discarded. In the case of plastic, this means simultaneously keeping the value of plastics in the economy, without leakage into the natural environment

What are the four main concepts of circular economy

The circular economy is a systems solution framework that tackles global challenges like climate change, biodiversity loss, waste, and pollution. We must transform every element of our take-make-waste system: how we manage resources, how we make and use products, and what we do with the materials afterwards.

What is a circular economy and why is it so important for toys?

In nature all elements flow in cycles, from smallest nutrients to the most complex living things, our planet has evolved through billions of years to come to this optimised environment that allows us to flourish. Only in the last couple of generations of our existence on this planet we have developed a behaviour and a global economy that operates in a linear manner. We take resources, we make very complex products, to be used for a very short period of time, and then we throw them away. We are doing this at an extremely fast rate, so it is not surprising that we are depleting the planets resources, and stocking up on a lot of waste that contaminates our environment, and heats up the planet.

One way industries and organisations are investing and working on to fix this problem is by encouraging a circular economy in which we can maximize the period these products are being used, and give the planet a chance to replenish its resources. This, combined with choosing to produce these items from sustainable resources that we can better manage and that contaminate less should create the positive effect we need. We can live in harmony with our home planet and taking care of it, but if we maintain the same behaviour we have adopted recently which is the linear approach, we will be consuming our planet, and leaving very little to the coming generations.

Toys should be a perfect candidate for this approach.

We should be teaching our kids how to treat and think about the very first products they come into contact with- toys. We owe it to them to help them reduce the large debt to the environment we have left, and most importantly we want them to grow up with the right mindset and values and be innovative in shaping the economy of the future.

Most of our efforts to battle this wasteful way to consume toys involve being restrictive in either the amount of toys (think only Christmas and birthday purchases) or being restrictive in the quality of play (think second hand shops or hand me downs of toys that don’t always give us the widest choices). This is because we have often thought of toys as objects that need to be purchased.

Toy is a $90 billion industry. $300 billion if games are included

14.9535686335 World average temperature (°C)


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