Sustainable toys under the Christmas tree: the very best gift!

Posted on 14 December 2021.

Several brands have committed to a more sustainable toy industry by opting for eco-responsible local manufacturing, and by developing other modes of consumption such as second-hand and rental solutions.

In France around 75,000 metric tons of toys end up in our garbage cans every year. The great majority of them are made of plastic and manufactured abroad, usually in Asia. Is it just the way the cookie crumbles? Not at all. Several toy manufacturers offer sustainable alternatives - toys that are both designed to encourage children's development and reduce the toy’s environmental impact throughout its life cycle. Follow the guide.

Eco-designed toys

Les Jouets Libres and Sloli offer original toys and games made from natural and ecological materials such as wood, wool and recycled cotton. With a zero-waste approach, they are designed to last a long time and are sold without all the usual unnecessary packaging: fabric pouches replace disposable plastic bags and the rules of the game are printed directly on the box. Both companies claim 100% French production.
The Californian company Green Toys goes even further, using only post-consumer recycled materials, mainly from HDPE plastic milk bottles.

Developed by a team of Danish designers, MODU is a modular multifunctional construction system made up of large bricks in non-toxic EVA foam and recyclable ABS plastic that children, aged 6 months to 6 years, can assemble to create all kinds of structures. Educational and evolutionary, the MODU system is designed to "grow" with the child.
Finally, the small family business Eco-tots only sells toys manufactured in an environmentally-friendly way by British companies. Their website includes wooden castles and figurines.

Second-hand toys

The proportion of eco-designed toys in Santa's sack is growing, but manufacturing a new toy always means consuming resources, whether in the form of virgin raw materials (for example wood) or energy used in production. As a result, more and more parents are opting for second-hand toys, which can be found in charity shops and a multitude of both specialized and non-specialized private sales outlets. But how do you make sure the toys are safe and perfectly clean?

In France, the association Rejoué specializes in selling refurbished toys. After collecting donations from individuals or organizations, it cleans and renovates toys that have already been played with. Any unusable parts, such as batteries or paper, are sent for recycling. In addition to reducing waste, Rejoué supports people in precarious situations towards sustainable jobs. Since it was founded in 2012, the association has collected 300 metric tons of toys and books and sold more than 16,000 units.

Toys for rent

According to Rejoué, on average a toy is played with for just eight months! As sustainable as it may be, it is doomed to end up at the bottom of a cupboard less than a year after being bought. Which is why scalability is so important in an eco-design approach. You can also choose to rent rather than buy toys. This reduces waste and chaos.
Play Go Round in Spain, Petite Marelle in France, Whirli in the United Kingdom or Happy Baton in Hong Kong… Some examples of companies offering a game and toy rental service.

The principle is simple: parents take out a subscription and receive a box containing a number of toys tailored to their child's age and developmental needs. They can make up this box themselves (Petite Marelle, Whirli) or leave it to experts to do it (Play Go Round, Happy Baton). The kids enjoy the toys and games for a period of time (one month, three months or as long as the children still play with them), then send them back and receive a new box.

Finally, there is the great initiative Toy Rescue, designed by 3D printer manufacturer Dagoma. A team of designers catalogued the most frequently broken or lost parts of the most popular toys sold over the last forty years and modeled them with a 3D scanner. These 3D files have been put online on the platform where anyone can go to find the part they need, download it for free and print it.
People who do not have a 3D printer can have the printed parts sent to them by the Dagoma maker community. Alongside, the company is working on the design of a filament created from plastic toys that are impossible to repair.