Whether by using plant-based plastics, recycled materials, or collecting old items from consumers, the toy industry is making efforts to go green. In recent years, major brands in the sector – such as Lego, Hasbro and Mattel – have launched various initiatives as part of a wider move towards environmental responsibility.
On May 11, toy-maker Mattel announced the launch of a vast circular economy program across five countries, by which consumers can return old toys from Mattel’s Barbie, Matchbox and Mega brands to the manufacturer. These will then be cleaned and transformed into plastic granules, which will then be used to make new products. The initiative forms part of a wider drive towards sustainability for the group. A year ago, for example, the American toy giant presented a collection of plant-based plastic toys for its Fisher-Price and Mega Bloks brands.
But the Barbie-maker isn’t the only player turning the toy industry green. In 2019, rival brand Hasbro announced plans to banish plastic from its packaging, notably by progressively reducing the use of polyethylene bags, elastic bands and blister films by 2022. The brand is also aiming to halve its production of waste, reduce its water use by 15% and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by one fifth by 2025.
And, like Mattel, Hasbro has started using plant-based plastic to make some of its products. Plus, a vast collection of used toys organised in 2019 by the brand in partnership with TerraCycle will make use of the plastic from old toys to create public benches or play areas.
Other toy makers with green initiatives include the famous Danish brick-maker Lego, which in 2019 launched its “Treehouse” set featuring bricks made from a plant-based plastic made using sugarcane. Plus, the brand has set the objective of making Lego bricks exclusively from sustainable sources by 2030.
These ambitious objectives are in step with the new expectations of consumers. And these brands have made quite a turnaround, it seems. Just 10 years ago, Greenpeace singled out these three toy giants for using materials sourced from Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), directly contributing to rainforest deforestation in Indonesia.
In 2011, Greenpeace called on Lego, Hasbro and Mattel (as well as other toy makers like Disney) to “become leaders in their industry in the use of sustainable forest products for all their toys and packaging, by immediately implementing new procurement policies aimed to cover the purchase of all pulp and paper products.”
According to Greenpeace, Lego was the first of the firms to take action in response to its claims. Soon after the NGO’s campaign in 2011, the Danish firm announced plans to reduce packaging, maximise the use of recycled materials and ensure that any remaining virgin fiber comes from Forest Stewardship Council certified sources. Mattel followed suit a few months later.
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