• Katy Rigg

Plastic Free July // TOYS

Updated: Jul 21, 2020

When we were expecting Rudy, I had the very romantic notion that we would only let him play with wooden toys.

I didn’t like plastic toys and I didn’t want them in my house. I didn’t like the garish colours, I didn’t like the chemicals, I didn’t like the faddiness of them or the fact that they can’t be recycled. I especially didn’t like the creepy sounds they make when they go off in the toy box all of their own accord, long after the baby has gone to bed.

But this crusade didn’t last long because as any parent knows: babies love plastic stuff. Probably for all the same reasons adults hate it. And when it’s everywhere, it seems like an impossible task to avoid it.

I had a conundrum on my hands.

But I soon realised that good quality plastic toys are not the real enemy. If they’re made to last, they hardly count as single-use plastic and a well-made plastic toy has a life span of a good decade or more. They can be re-homed and re-used and passed on to friends. I have found a lot of joy in picking things up in charity shops, doing toy swaps with friends and joining local selling groups to collect pre-loved toys from people in the area. He plays with them for a bit, and then I either pass them on to other friends or take them back to the charity shop to be sold again. It doesn’t solve the problem of the huge number of plastic toys ending up in landfill, but I’m not contributing to the problem either. And whilst my son has no concept of what is new, or just new to him, second hand plastic toys feels like an okay-compromise.

Cheap plastic toys are an entirely different beast. I’m talking about the pound shop toys, the Kinder Egg toys, the party bag toys, freebies with children’s magazines and meal deals, the novelty toys in the middle of Christmas crackers. They cost hardly anything and have zero expectation to last, so nobody values them. If they break, nobody cares. It’s no great hardship to replace them or buy something else. It is literally destined for the bin after a few days or hours.

That is not okay.

Children need to know where this cheap tat ends up when it no longer holds their interest, either because it’s broken or it becomes boring to them. It doesn’t just disappear once it’s left the house. It gets burnt, or it ends up in landfill, or in the ocean or on beaches where they love to play. I don’t think kids can ever be too young to be told this, especially when there is 150 million tonnes of plastic in the ocean already, a figure that is set to increase by around 8 million tonnes a year.

We can all choose to add to this figure. Or not.

We can buy new toys, or we can buy second hand. We can buy plastic toys, or we can buy toys made out of more sustainable materials. We can buy lots of cheap toys, or a few better quality ones. We can throw old toys in the bin, or we can pass them on. We can replace broken toys, or we can fix the ones we’ve got. We can look at what our children have and what they play with and make decisions about whether they really need any more. We can choose to say yes, or choose to say no.

And we can talk to our kids about the value of things. We can ask them what they think is worth more: A few hours of gratification….or the future of planet.

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