The holiday season is upon us and we find ourselves with closets and boxes filled with discarded toys. What can be done with these unused toys before new ones arrive for the holidays? Toys, in good condition, can be given away. The problem occurs when the toys are unusable. Many of those toys end up in the landfill or an incinerator.
The toy industry states that Americans bought about 25 billion dollars worth of toys in 2015, which means that often, new toys replace old ones. According to Ecolife, 13 million toys are put into the trash annually, especially around the holidays. Because toys are made from many different materials — plastics Nos. 1-7, metal, glass, computer components, and more — they are challenging to recycle.
Donating functional toys is a great local option. Besides shelters and hospitals, the most obvious and accessible donation options are thrift stores like Goodwill. In our own community, one can donate to local churches, thrift stores, consignment shops, and day-care facilities. As an added benefit, some charities will give one a tax-deductible receipt for a toy donation. Play groups can have toy swaps. Folks can give toys away to friends and family members or sell them at yard sales.
Broken toys can be especially challenging to sustainably dispose of, as most donation programs will not accept them. This can be troubling when one considers that more than 40 percent of the toys gifted to children during the holiday season are broken by spring. What can be done with toys that are broken or have missing pieces?
Tom’s of Maine and TerraCycle are working together to recycle broken toys and turn them into something useful, like park benches. They provide boxes to families and community organizations that come with a prepaid shipping label for an easy return process once full. Everything from dolls to board-game pieces can be placed in the box and shipped to TerraCycle free of charge. The program started in April 2015 and is in its second year. Hopefully next holiday season, a Tom’s of Maine recycling box will be offered for use in the local community.
Goodwill will recycle old computer equipment. One can drop off used computer equipment at any Goodwill store. Goodwill is working with Dell to responsibly recycle computers and accessories of all brands. Electronic gadgets that no longer function can be turned in at an e-cycling event that is usually scheduled in the fall and spring. The spring e-waste recycling event for this area will be announced when the date is set.
Before throwing away a broken toy, examine it. Can it be fixed? Is there someone in town who likes to do that kind of work? Sometimes a school group is interested in that type of challenge. Families and friends can get together and create new games out of parts and pieces of discarded toys and games. Another option would be to dismantle the toys and distribute the various parts and pieces into the proper recycling bins at the local transfer station.
As children get older and their interests shift, a mountain of unused, broken, and obsolete toys is often left in their wake. Unfortunately, there are currently no convenient or easy solutions for broken toys or games with missing parts. If one has toys that are clean and in usable condition, one can donate or share them with friends or family.
PWA’s “Keep Pemaquid Peninsula Beautiful” initiative will bolster the PWA’s work to preserve and enhance the natural beauty of the Pemaquid Peninsula by promoting a clean, litter-free environment.
Pemaquid Watershed Association was established in 1966 and is a volunteer-based, membership-supported nonprofit organization whose mission is to conserve the natural resources of the Pemaquid Peninsula through land and water stewardship and education. For more information, go to pemaquidwatershed.org.