Are Plastic Toys Harmful for the Environment?

As mentioned by the United Nations Environment Programme report 2014, the toy industry is the most intensive plastic industry in the world. 

The Woman Post | Catalina Mejía Pizano

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Even though people are becoming more aware of the negative impact of plastics on our planet, it can be tricky for parents to stop buying them for their kids.

We all know that various countries are making efforts to reduce the use of plastic bags and to cut down the plastic on the packaging, but is this enough? As mentioned by Statista, 318 million toys were sold in the United Kingdom in 2018. It is also worth highlighting that 90% of all the toys sold in the world are made from plastic. However, if we widen our perspective,  it is estimated that 150 million tonnes of plastic are already in the ocean and every year this number increases by 8 tonnes. It is also important to note that it takes 400 years for plastic to biodegrade.

The plastic industry of toys is worth $110.9 billion per year in the United States. Most toys are not recyclable and are made from mixing plastics with metals, which makes it difficult to separate them, ending up in landfills. According to Envirotoy, an estimate of 1402 tonnes of plastic sold last year in the UK, will end up within 50km of the coastline in the UK at the end of their life. 

If this weren't enough, studies have revealed that children who chew on PVC plastic toys ingest dangerous chemicals that can even disrupt their hormones. Baby bottles, as well as sippy cups and others, are made with Phthalates and Bisphenol A (BPA) two toxic compounds that are harmful to their development and health.


Now, let's explore some of the reasons why so many toys are made from plastic. First of all, plastic makes them last longer. Plastic also makes it easier to wash toys or even clean them with wipes. Since they can be cleaned, they are more hygienic for children. Finally, plastic toys require the least maintenance when compared to other materials. For instance, wood is easier to develop splints or to rot.

Even though the advantages of making plastic toys are evident, the benefits of ditching plastic are even greater when it comes to saving our planet. Also, you may find that doing so, is easier than it may seem. A poll by the British Heart Foundation revealed that more than a quarter of parents admitted disposing of toys that were still perfect. 

Some ways to reduce the purchase of plastic toys are doing a second-hand Christmas, buying from toys companies that are taking steps to become more sustainable, encouraging children to make the best out of the toys they already have, repairing old toys with your children, or even encouraging them to play with recycled materials. Parents could also schedule a time to create toys with their children or even switch from giving kids material gifts to experiences such as traveling, camping, or going to the movies. Finally, if you want to buy something for your kids, think about it twice and choose toys that develop their creative skills or teamwork abilities. 

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