Keeping Toys out of Landfills
According to Ecolife.com, around 13 million used toys a year end up in the trash. It’s hardly surprising, as toys can be easy to break and hard to recycle, but there are a few things we can do to keep as many toys as possible out of those landfills.
Think before you buy
Some toys are more reusable or recyclable than others. Soft toys are particularly difficult to find second homes for as people tend to have concerns about hygiene. Even my local women’s shelter (which will usually find a deserving home for almost anything) won’t take soft toys any more since an outbreak of head lice was traced to a donation of stuffed animals.
Every child needs a stuffed animal, but most don’t need anywhere near as many as they actually collect, and because the mixed materials they’re made of can make recycling difficult, most do eventually end up in landfills.
The more durable the toys you buy the more likely they are to survive to be re-sold at a yard sale, passed on to a friend or donated to a charity, not just once but many times. Landfills are full of cheap plastic toys that broke and got thrown away, often shortly after the packaging came off. Always look for something that’s built to last.
Most of us buy way too many toys, especially for very young children. For most moms, it only takes one child to realize that they tend to prefer playing with a saucepan, a cardboard box or mom’s cell phone! I’m not suggesting you deprive your kids of ‘proper’ toys. I’m just reminding you that most of us could easily cut down on the amount of toys we buy without it having any detrimental effect on our kids’ childhoods.
Take care of your toys
I’m proud of my minimal clutter policy and I regularly have a big clear out and pass on everything my kids have outgrown or grown bored of, but the first time I did a toy purge, I was surprised at how much stuff was useless due to our own carelessness.
Games were missing essential pieces (such as the rules!), sets of Lego and other building/modeling toys had become separated, and puzzles were missing (of course) just one piece. This meant a lot of stuff couldn’t be donated or re-sold. Since then I try and keep things in their place so others can enjoy our toys and games when we’ve finished with them.
As green mamas know, reusing is better than recycling. You can pass toys on to younger friends, relatives and neighbors, sell them online or at yard sales, donate them to local shelters or children’s charities, or give them to other members of the community through Freecycle.org.
If things can’t be reused they can sometimes still be recycled. This can be difficult with some toys as they’re so often made of mixed materials. If you don’t have a good recycling system in your area, find out if there’s a recycling center nearby that may accept used toys. Some might even pay you for them. Or consider ‘deconstructing’ your used toys into materials that can be recycled in your area.
So many of us have switched to cloth diapers and minimally packaged food in an effort to reduce landfill waste. Let’s take it a step further by re-thinking our toy buying policies.
Karen is a freelance writer and homeschooling mother of two. Originally from England, she has lived, worked and studied in Canada, Spain, The Netherlands and Australia. She loves the fact that freelancing and homeschooling allow her family to be (fairly) location independent. Her writing specialties include travel, lifestyle, parenting and natural living. She also blogs about writing, publishing and creativity at Change The World With Words.