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There’s nothing quite as wonderful as seeing your child’s eyes light up with joy upon seeing a new toy. It may be brand new, or not — it doesn’t really matter. A new toy means new adventures, and countless hours of fun for your child. But wait, is it made of plastic?
The toy, beautifully wrapped in paper, is only one of the many presents your child has yet to unwrap after celebrating another birthday or Christmas. How many plastic toys will your child get, yet again, even as you have done your part as a parent to not purchase any these past few years?
Well-meaning gift-givers continue to purchase plastic children’s toys, not knowing the health risks and environmental impact their gifts pose. After all, whether heavily marketed or not, plastic toys dominate the market in terms of sheer number. Now, it is up to parents and child caregivers to ensure that plastic toys get no place in their home.
Still find yourself wavering from your “no plastic toys” policy from time to time? Maybe it’s time to get familiar with the world of plastic toys.
1. Plastic toys end up in landfills.
You already know they are not biodegradable. So whether we’re talking about popular plastic toys featuring your child’s favorite cartoon character, or those mini cars, pots and pans from a kid’s goody bag, they will all end up as waste that doesn’t degrade — in landfills. This, of course, is toxic, and will last for generations.
2. Plastic toys can contain e-waste.
Plastic toys made up of recycled materials can sometimes contain e-waste. This means contaminants, harmful chemicals and compounds can end up being part of your toddler’s favorite toy. Countries that depend on low-cost plastic exports save on costs by using recycled components, even in the production of children’s toys. So part of yesterday’s old filing cabinet could end up in your child’s favorite plastic car.
3. Plastic toys are not recyclable.
According to experts, even when all plastic products are essentially what they are called (plastic), plastic toys pose even greater environmental risks. Plastic toys almost always cannot be recycled precisely because most of them are already made of recycled materials. Recycling centers find attempting to recycle plastic toys especially complicated. Some plastic toys have been found to contain metal components aside from other contaminants. Removing these ingredients during recycling would be both costly and difficult.
4. Although cheaper, plastic toys end up costing everyone more.
The adverse health effects of BPA and phthalates are already widely known, and some toy manufacturers have stopped using them altogether. However, majority of mass produced toys (including more expensive and popular ones) are still made of plastic — and everyone knows where they’ll all end up. First, in the mouths of young kids, and later, in a landfill.
5. Plastic toys introduce kids early to the culture of mass consumption.
As a parent, you already know the importance of teaching the value of simplicity and prudence early on. Plastic toys, on the other hand, are heavily consumed. Your child gets them for almost every holiday, including school-related events, and on birthdays, whether it’s your child’s own party or another’s. They fascinate kids only for a short span of time, and then end up in the trash, lasting for years and years in already overloaded landfills.
You don’t want to seem paranoid or an alarmist, but you do want what is best for your child. There are other child-friendly and environmentally sustainable toy options in the market you can always consider. There are toys made of natural, untreated materials grown organically such as natural rubber, untreated wood and organic cotton.
For painted-on toys like those made of wood, those colored using food grade dyes, milk paint and non-toxic acrylics are considered child safe. If you plan on embarking on homemade wooden toy projects, you can also try making DIY homemade wood polish.
If you want to take the eco-friendly toy route a step further, you can browse thrift and novelty shops with your child. Who knows? You just might pick up good quality second-hand wooden toys guaranteed to last a few more generations.
Sreeya Patil Wiesner is the founder of EcoToys in Dubai, UAE. She started her online toy store with an aim to provide healthy, safe and eco-friendly wooden toys to kids 0-6 years of age in the UAE.