What to Do with Old Plastic Toys?

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Ah, the holidays. It’s a time of family, food, vacations and gift giving. As we come off a week or so break from school and are trying to get our lives back into some sort of order, we often take stock of the kids’ loot they received over the holidays. Many times there is tons of plastic, old and new, that can be found in our kids’ toy boxes and play spaces. What is a parent to do with all of the old stuff?

As you know, my mantra is DO NOT THROW IT OUT! That is the last thing our landfills need – tons of plastic to fill them up. As it stands, in 2010 there were 31 million tons of plastic waste generated in the U.S. – representing 12.4% of total municipal solid waste  that went into our landfills (1). And the sad part is that only 8% of plastic thrown out is recycled each year!

Now, on to what we can actually do with all of this extra plastic that we have accumulated, but don’t want in our homes anymore and promise not to throw out:

1. DONATE – this is the best way to make sure your toys get a second life. If they are still in good shape with a little wear and tear, then look for local donation centers: hospitals, churches, Salvation Army, shelters, schools, day cares, libraries, etc.

2. RECYCLE – take a peek at the bottom of your toys. Do they have a recycling symbol on them? If so, you can easily toss them in with your recycling or find a recycling center near you that will take them. Earth 911 has a great list of local recycling centers.

3. SELL – that’s right, you can make some money off of your old goods. Check to see if there is a local consignment shop that accepts toys. I have a local Facebook group that is like a community yard sale, on which tons of toys get listed (and bought). What about Craigslist or eBay? All great places to make some money off of your old toys.

And what if none of these work for you? Then my suggestion is for you to be more mindful when you go to buy your next toy. Think about what a toy’s next life will look like. If you can’t donate, recycle or sell it, then maybe it shouldn’t be purchased or given as a gift. The strongest way we can tell companies to stop making products that aren’t good for our environment is with our wallets: just don’t buy them!

Hopefully, this has inspired you to take stock of your playroom and figure out how purge any unwanted toys from your home. Do you have any other suggestions of ways to re-purpose old plastic toys?

Green Parenting is published every Friday. For questions or comments, email Elise Jones.

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The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog contributor’s. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Writers may have conflicts of interest, and their opinions are their own.


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