Mattel Introduces New Toy Recycling Program for Barbies, Matchbox Cars, and More

Image: Mattel

by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer

Come on, Barbie! Let’s go…recycle? You read that right; Mattel has introduced a new program called “Mattel PlayBack,” where kids of all ages can send in their old toys to be recycled into new ones. While the pilot program will only be available in the U.S. and Canada, Mattel hopes to have programs in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom in the future. Mattel joins a growing number of toy companies implementing recycling and donation programs to operate more sustainably.

Why This Matters: Toys are essential for any child, but 90% of today’s toys are made of plastic. 

Professor Tensie Whelan, former head of the Rainforest Alliance and director of the NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business, explained the scale of the toy industry’s climate woes. “We’ve got 60 million kids under 14 in the United States. We’ve got 90 percent of toys made of plastic. We have chemical issues, waste disposal issues, social supply chain issues. So, a lot of things that need to be addressed.” 

During the pandemic, toy sales surged as families struggled to avoid boredom in lockdown, and now, they may be looking to reduce clutter. But experts say it’s time to start treating our plastic as a precious commodity rather than disposable. Mattel’s new program does just that.

Life in Plastic: Mattel previously pledged to use 100% recycled, recyclable or bio-based plastic materials for its products and packaging by 2030. The PlayBack program will encourage consumers to ship their old Barbie dolls, Matchbox cars, and more back to the company for free. There, the toys will be sorted by material type and recycled. Any materials that cannot be used in new toys will either be down-cycled into plastic products or converted from waste to energy. 

Mattel’s global head of sustainability, Pamela Gill-Alabaster, told CNN Business, “we get to keep these valuable materials out of a landfill and have the opportunity to learn from the circular model.” Currently, 72% of the nation’s plastic ends up in landfills, and recycling and waste management systems were overwhelmed in 2020 as medical and delivery waste piled up.

This isn’t Mattel’s first foray into toy recycling.

  • In 2020, the company tested a program with New Jersey-based recycling company TerraCycle.
  • The recycling company has also worked with toy giants like Hasbro, which produces iconic plastic play-things like Mr. Potato Head and Transformers.

LEGO Group, which in 2019 was the world’s largest toy company, has also implemented a recycling program for its iconic plastic bricks.

  • LEGO Group has produced 400 billion plastic LEGO bricks, 62 per person on earth.

Controlling a plastic footprint that high is no small task, but the company says its recycling and reuse process saves up to 80% of resources needed to produce new bricks. Experts hope that this is a sign that toy companies are beginning to value plastic as more than disposable, and are willing to shift away from the throw-away culture of the past as the nation attempts to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.

 

Up Next

One Fun Way To Keep Plastic Beach Toys Out of the Ocean

One Fun Way To Keep Plastic Beach Toys Out of the Ocean

The folks on Hilton Head Island have a great new way of “recycling” plastic beach toys — they have built a big bin on the beach at Islanders Beach Park where people can drop off beach toys they find and other families can borrow them and later either return them there or take them home.  […]

Continue Reading 151 words

One Planet Thing: Celebrating World Environment Day Across the Globe

Tomorrow, June 5th is #WorldEnvironmentDay and the theme this year is #GenerationRestoration to raise awareness about the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.  The events actually kick off officially at 9 a.m. ET this morning and there is programming throughout the day today and tomorrow — including a  Virtual Launch Gala with inspiring messages from world […]

Continue Reading 131 words
Pope Francis Addresses “Predatory Attitude” Towards the Planet With Laudato Si Initiative

Pope Francis Addresses “Predatory Attitude” Towards the Planet With Laudato Si Initiative

On Tuesday, Pope Francis launched an initiative to make Catholic institutions environmentally sustainable in seven years with the overarching goal of protecting the environment and the poor from climate change.

Why this Matters:  Spiritual leaders across faiths have been taking a stand against climate change. On November 16th, 2020, 47 faith institutions— 42 representing Catholics— announced their divestment from fossil fuels.

Continue Reading 357 words

Want the planet in your inbox?

Subscribe to the email that top lawmakers, renowned scientists, and thousands of concerned citizens turn to each morning for the latest environmental news and analysis.