This article highlights some of the success stories and showcases companies that are spear-heading sustainable production, forward-looking packaging solutions and the development of creative ways to reuse, recycle and repurpose existing materials.
Manufacturing Sustainability in Factories and with People
In previous sustainable articles, we have highlighted the ongoing efforts of some of the largest players in the toy industry, such as LEGO (Denmark), Mattel (USA), Hasbro (USA) and Zuru (New Zealand/ Hong Kong). We identified how they have consistently targeted and are reaching their Global Sustainable Development Goals. In today’s world, every toy industry manufacturer needs to be determined to improve their environmental footprint and to be dedicated to setting goals to accomplish these initiatives.
Many mid-tier, smaller and start-up manufacturers have also made it their mission to address environmental concerns, starting from the factory-level and following through to the delivery of their final products. These cutting-edge sustainability leaders continue to be committed to improving their efforts, setting a gold standard for other toy industry manufacturers to follow. Companies like PlanToys (Thailand), HABA (Germany), Hape (Germany), Begin Again (USA), and Green Toys (USA) have been using renewable resources to manufacture sustainable playthings for decades. They have also created a brand-loyal consumer base, by consistently applying these practices.
Newer and classic manufacturers are also reaching for sustainability. Some notable examples include:
- Papoose Toys (Australia, Nepal) distributes toys, dolls and role-play playsets made from only natural fibers such as wool, cotton and wood. Crafted by local artisans in Nepal, the company supports Fair Trade conditions, providing work for local women to support their families.
- Bonikka Dolls and playthings by Tikiri (Sri Lanka) are made from natural rubber, harvested sustainably from the Hevea Tree. They are certified non-toxic, BPA-free, phthalate free, and PVC-free, and are hand-painted with plant-based non-toxic dyes. Their toys, dolls and other playthings are heritage quality to be shared with multiple generations.
- Le Toy Van (UK) has also recently switched to 100% renewable energy at their factory in Indonesia, and they support diversity by hiring a consciously selected gender-balanced workforce team.
Forward-Thinking Packaging Options
Packaging efforts focus on zero-waste packaging solutions, and other plastic packaging reduction initiatives. Some packaging solutions were designed to reduce shrink wrap, eliminate clam shell packaging, and reduce or get rid of plastic blister packs and window sheets. Other packaging changes have eliminated polybags in packaging and replaced them with paper bags, switched from plastic and wire twist ties to paper ties, and have switched to recycled cardboard for outer packaging. Here are other examples of what newer manufacturers are introducing to create sustainable packaging solutions:
- SkimBe collection by Waterline Toys (USA), a new manufacturer of water-skimming and ice-skimming flying disks. They have developed a simple sleeve package to eliminate excess waste.
- Bababoo and friends®(Germany) is a new manufacturer of wooden preschool toys and character-based playsets and books (Penguin Random House Germany). They have created giftable packages, where the sturdy cardboard box becomes both a part of the play pattern and a storage case.
- eeBoo (USA) Committed from the beginning to responsible sourcing and manufacturing, eeBoo uses 90% recycled greyboard and vegetable inks to make the vast majority of their products. EeBoo puzzles, games and story cards are produced in a factory recognized for its sustainable manufacturing integrity. Their products are free from unnecessary packaging or plastic components. Although their products are sturdy and can be used again and again, many of the puzzle pieces and the packaging are also biodegradable, so both can be composted once the play life cycle has been completed.
Circular Economy Efforts and Applications
Promoting a circular economy involves developing creative ways to re-use, recycle and upcycle current materials.
TOYI (Turkey) is a newcomer to the toy industry, who encourages kids to creatively re-use, recycle and upcycle everyday items such as yogurt cups, plastic bottles and cardboard materials. They promote open-ended play and tapping into kids’ imaginations to combine recycled parts with their add-on creative component kits.
- Marioinex (Poland) includes a reusable cloth bag in most of their packages, providing a storage solution for the present and a future gifting option, when children are ready to pass their toy bricks on to the next generation of kids.
These leading sustainable manufacturers are not resting on their laurels. They continue to challenge themselves, and their competitors to improve their methods, materials, processes, products and practices.