The Real Life Toy Story – Are Toys Recyclable?

By Cassie Fung on 30th November 2023 (updated: 18th December 2023) in News & Blog

childrens toys

How to Save Toys from the Landfill

Everyone who has watched Toy Story 3 remembers the climactic scene of the cowboy doll Woody and his toy friends falling into the incinerator, waiting to be burned alive.

Luckily, the toys are rescued from their gruesome fate in the movie. But the reality is 80% of toys end up in this burning hell, buried under piles of rubbish or drowned in the ocean.

It’s not only a terrible ending for the toys, it also causes environmental issues when they are discarded as rubbish.

So the question is — how do we let the toys fulfil their purpose of keeping children happy without treating them as useless waste in the end?


When Toys become Waste

The ideal solution of recycling can be troublesome when it comes to toys. Toys can be made of multiple different materials, from wood to metal and fabrics. Without extensive knowledge and time, it isn’t plausible for the public to take apart the toys, learn the different materials used and sort them into different recycling materials. So in the end, toys are usually treated as general waste.

One thing for sure is that the main component is hard plastic, and we all know plastics take an awfully long time (20 to 500 years) to decompose. Even though some plastics can be recycled easily, most toys use polyethene and polystyrene, where the latter cannot be recycled.

Even though toys cannot be recycled, parents still can’t help but give in when children beg for the trendy toy shown on TV. At least it’s good money spent, right?

Imagine the frustration when you find the new toy shoved into a corner after two days.


The Short-lived Joy of Playing with New Toys

Nearly half of the parents say their children get bored with their new toy in a week. Toys can pile up quickly until it becomes a mess to declutter and parents decide to throw away the unloved toys. In fact, nearly 1 in 3 parents admit they have thrown away toys in perfect working condition.

It could be frustrating for parents but it’s not all without reasons.

  1. Short attention span

Children naturally have a short attention span — about two to three times their age. For example, a 3-year-old would be able to focus on their new toy for 6 – 9 minutes at a time. This means they could get tired of even the newest hottest toy quickly despite their eyes sparkling with excitement when they first saw it.

  1. Underdeveloped Self-Control

Dr Camille Ace, a licensed clinical psychologist and a mum of two, explains that children’s underdeveloped decision-making process can be a factor in their fleeting interest in new toys. Children are easily affected by their emotional, irrational thoughts and impulses. This could make it difficult for them to foresee the future outcome of losing interest.

  1. Social Influence

Ace also mentioned peer pressure and clever marketing as one of the reasons for children’s desire for new toys. Ads are extremely effective for children. If all their friends have one, it’s easy to understand why they think they need one too. “We, as parents, hate the idea of our child feeling left out, so a quick fix is to simply buy them the new, popular novelty. But lo and behold, the new plaything isn’t all it’s cracked up to be,” Ace said.


Prolonging a Toy’s Life

  1. Borrow Toys. Don’t Buy.

You can prevent your house from cluttering if you refrain from buying in the first place. That doesn’t mean your children shouldn’t enjoy new toys but borrowing toys can be a good way to entertain your child without buying excessively.

For locals, Harrogate and Knaresborough Toy Library is a good place to borrow toys and swap them for other ones to keep things fresh for your child.

Another choice is Whirli, a subscription service that allows parents to borrow toys for their children. When children lose interest in them, swap them for another batch of toys so it keeps them happy without cluttering your home.


  1. Pass it down and share the joy

Your child might be bored of the toys already but they might spark joy in your neighbour’s child. A good way of reusing unloved toys is to simply give them away.

LEGO is one of the popular toys among children. 97% of LEGO owners pass them on to their family or friends to share the joy of building bricks. It allows children to use their creativity, making it worth replaying and creating different experiences for different children.

Pass it down to someone’s child you know, or donate them to charities. Charity shops would be glad to reuse your toys to help them find a home and offer them at a more affordable price for the public. Charities could generate income for their good causes and you’re reducing waste for the planet too.

Start with your local charity shops or toy campaigns like Reuse Santa.

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