How to reduce waste, protect the environment and be sustainable as a toy business? 

In a previous blog called, Mimitoys – Reducing Waste & Carbon – What a small business can do… I talk about the steps, we, as a small business, take to help and contribute to a cleaner environment .  

Doorstep delivery of a Mimitoys order in a reused box.
For example, all orders are delivered in recycled boxes (except the ones that do not need to be boxed and that come in a sturdy box), 90% of orders are delivered by An Post electric vehicles, we source all toys from sustainable materials. Step-by-step, as we look at the processes of an online business, we can add and improve all the time… 

I have also worked on a vision for the business, what I call my Eco & Ethical Progress: a sustained commitment to a more “progressive” value for play and toys and trust that our children know how to play from day one! I’d like to spread the word that less is more when it comes to toys. So many toys end up in a landfill, it’s a good idea to spend a bit of time looking at the toy, its quality and play value for a considered purchase. I believe that toys can be loved, re-loved, used and re-used and can be passed on to the next generation! 

Environmental sustainability is not an easy path, it’s a wide discussion full of grey lines. Why? Well below are a few examples detailing the complexity of toy environmental impact, 

Is a once-off wooden dollhouse made in Austria more sustainable than 1 dollhouse made in a batch of 1000 in Thailand. Which dollhouse uses the most electricity and transport diesel? 

Is a fragile wooden toy made in Europe more sustainable than a plastic bath toy from China, when viewed over say 10 years. Bath toys are never thrown out (in my experience) and are always handed down from sibling to sibling and sometimes from parent to Aunty / Uncle. The receiving child of the hand-me-down will therefore need substantially less bath toys as a result. A broken wooden toy gets binned and a replacement is bought. Which example is more sustainable? 

What if a large manufacturer ‘fesses up to being a carbon emitter but buys Carbon Credits, plants forests or decarbonises elsewhere.  

Plastic & Battery toys tend to have a short lifespan in terms of play. So what if a plastic toy with battery is made from recycled plastic. You need to consider the likely time before that toy takes on average is sent to landfill. If my assumption is correct then what does the recycled nature of that toy mean when another similar toy will be purchased by that family within months. 

This ongoing effort to rethink and improve a whole way of working is also done through reviewing and questioning our suppliers, from production location, transport methods, packaging materials, carbon offsetting.

So I contacted all my suppliers and gathered information from the majority. Already, sustainability has become one of the main business strategies for the majority of brands we work with. Some have well-thought-out plans with a clear strategy for continuous improvement, others already do all the right things! 

Alphabet Jigsaws 

Designed in Ireland, all Alphabet Jigsaws puzzles are cut from sustainably sourced wood and painted by hand in dazzling colours, using non-toxic acrylic paints. 

The puzzles are produced and painted by hand with the same family for the last twenty five years. The family and workshop is in a rural part of Sri Lanka amidst rice paddies and tea plantations. Over the twenty five years they have forged an incredibly close relationship with the family, based on trust and the mutual desire to produce an exciting range of beautiful and unique jigsaw puzzles many with an Ireland or Irish language theme. 

Bigjigs is a UK company founded by husband and wife team Liz and Peter Ireland in 1985. They are both teachers by profession where child development and education is always at the heart of their fabulous toy range. They work closely with a number of toy production facilities in the Far East who are regularly visited by  Liz. Liz  takes great care to ensure that the facilities are operating ethically and are committed to a consistent quality that has been built up over many years. 

Bigjigs have a range of mostly wooden toys where wood is farmed environmentally. The majority of their wooden toys are manufactured from Rubberwood. Rubberwood is a byproduct of the latex production process (I think latex is used for soft rubber items like surgical gloves, rubber bands, balloons etc). Rather than the wood being discarded at the end of its useful “latex producing” life, it is  used in their toy production. It is a solid hardwood, perfect for producing quality, hard-wearing toys. 

No chemicals are adhered onto the wood and the toys are finished with child-friendly paints, stains and lacquers. In turn their range passes stringent safety testing guidelines regarding these surface coverings. 

Apunt produce all their toys in Spain and control their production in-house at all time. 
They manufacture with the lightest touch on their local environment. Step by step, they are replacing synthetic materials with natural and organic materials. In 2019, they launched a new organic collection to the point where now over 70% of the baby products they manufacture are organic. 

Their arts and crafts range of kits come in recyclable and biodegradable kraft cardboard packaging. 

Buitenspeel make all their current range of (mostly outdoor) games with FSC wood (sustainable forest farming values).  15 of their games are made with partly recycled materials. They also use recycled material for their packaging without the use of any plastic – this means previous container bags that were plastic are now substituted with cardboard or paper alternatives.  

One of their lines uses tin cans – where the toy is utterly robust, allowing those toys to be handed from from child to child and family to family. 

GreenToys eco-Friendly Toys 
GreenToys are made in the USA from 100% recycled material mainly plastic milk jugs and sometimes yogurt cups! These plastic toys contain no BPA, PVC, Phthalates or external coatings. The toys are packaged in recycled and recyclable materials with no plastic films or twist ties, and are printed with soy inks.  

Janod is a brand committed to improving its environmental impact. 25% of the products in the JANOD wood and cardboard collection are FSC® certified. Their goal is to reach 70% by 2025! To fill that time gap they plant an enormous amount of trees eg 4500 trees were planted in 2019 

The FSC®* certification system is an environmental ecolabel which ensures that wooden products come from responsibly managed forests. As a result, it guarantees the legality of the resource’s exploitation and the absence of any links to deforestation, in addition to biodiversity conservation. 

Janod Puzzles use no plastic packaging. 

Kaloo and Lilliputiens 
Kaloo and Lilliputiens were recently acquired by Janod. Both brands use recycled polyester stuffing (obtained from recycled plastic bottles) for their soft toys and comforters 

The stuffing is GRS-compliant (Global Recycled Standard) and certified by the Control Union body.   

Djeco’s environmental policy focuses on 3 main areas: 

Firstly they have massively reduced their packaging. 95% of their collection is now sold without overwrap film. Plastic packaging has been replaced with a paper equivalent or cardboard wedges. 

Secondly their raw materials are sourced from sustainable sectors. They use FSC-certified wood and cardboard in their toy manufacture. All their cardboard products are printed with vegetable inks. 

Lastly they part manufacture close to their Paris France base. This means less marine fuel is used to get their toys from their French factories to their Paris warehouses. Therefore, they manufacture quite a lot from within the EU. For example, the gift bags Mimitoys send free with every order is manufactured in world state of the art facilities in Spain. For toys coming from the far east, Djeco uniquely transport 50% of their toys (target 100% by 2025) with ships that use LNG (liquefied natural gas) – this has positive environmental impact in that LNG ships emit 99% less sulphur dioxide and 20% less Carbon Dioxide when compared against ships that use oil engines. 

Kapla manufacture stacking planks.  They exclusively use pine sourced within their French county (Landes) from sustainably managed forests. The wood is natural and untreated, and the coloured planks are dyed using food-grade colouring to ensure safe play. Their manufacturing process includes a series of strict checks and standards, as well as a final manual sorting, to provide quality planks that last years. As proof, we started Mimitoys in 2004 and as a family we still have a collection of perfectly good Kapla planks in a drawer somewhere (in the spare room!!!) from that period.

Le Toy Van 
The famous manufacturer of the best and most colourful Dollhouses in Ireland. Le Toy Van toys are all wood, the dollshouses themselves are made from a fiber board, whereas furniture and dollhouse characters are mostly full timber.  

Le Toy Van only use FSC certified wood for the fiber board and Indonesian Legal Rubberwood (see latex description above).  

Le Toy Van is serious in pointing out that they progress ethical production methods. They work closely with three factories across China and Indonesia. Each factory is approved by the ICTI Ethical Toy Programme Certification, that supports the rights and well-being of these workers. 

 With regards to the use of plastic, they are pledged to remove 100% of plastic from packaging by 2023. 

Legler work hard to continuously reduce their environmental footprint. They have a number of impactful initiatives. 

Firstly they recognise that wooden toys often outlast a single childhood and can be handed down. This is my argument at the start of this blog. 

Part of their Toy production assortment carries the FSC® seal (FSC®C138595). The wood materials used in the production of these toys come from sustainably managed forests or plantations which are regularly and independently inspected and certified in accordance with the strict international guidelines of the Forest Steward Council (FSC®).  

Then Legler’s shipping is carbon neutral. They ship with DHL exclusively on DHL’s “GoGreen” campaign, where DHL calculates its Carbon emissions in its transport methods and offsets that carbon through either buying carbon credits or engaging in other carbon capturing projects 

Legler’s headquarters is fully powered by company-owned photovoltaic panels that use the sun as an electricity source. 

An interesting perspective is that they save energy and shipping space thanks to the smallest amount of outer packaging possible. This makes sense and has impact. 

Additionally they are a Climate Partner at Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Where locals are provided with electricity via a small run-of-river power station. This spurs local economic growth and replaces charcoal production within the national park. Charcoal production is notoriously tree hungry, so this initiative not only produces electricity (where previously there was none) but significantly reduces the amount of trees cut down to make the charcoal, which in turn helps preserve valuable living space for animals, including some of the last wild mountain gorillas ( Legler also financially support the NABU project “Oceans Without Plastic”. 

Moulin Roty 
Moulin Roty do an oh-so-cute range of soft and plush toys. They select most of their fabrics in Europe for their creativity and their technical quality, as well as their non-toxicity (the majority are tested by suppliers following the system of reference Oeko-Tex). 

They work with factories and workshops that are selected with the greatest care, situated in Romania and France, as well as in China and Taiwan. These factories are above all partners with whom they have a long lasting relationship.   

The Puppet Company 
Puppet design is in the UK. The puppets themselves are manufactured in the Far East in factories that are visited by them to ensure that workers’ conditions are of the highest standards. 

The Puppet Comapny has strict environmental and ethical trading policies in place. Generally, they efficiently consume water, energy and other natural resources.  

In the production process they use non-toxic products, for example the puppets when requiring colour use VOC-free paints and the cleaning products used in the production process are in turn biodegradable. 

 In the transport of finished puppets they use sustainable transport methods wherever possible. 

Sentosphere is made in France with 80% of its raw materials in turn coming from France. That means low transport distances from supplier to the Sentosphere factory. 

Their toy boxes are made of 100% of recycled cardboard and are FSC certified. Many of their toys have small plastic paint pots – all these containers are made of 100% recycled materials. Lastly their toy box packaging are as compact and small as possible to reduce needless cardboard use. 

New Classic Toys
New Classic Toys are wooden toys designed in the Netherlands and made in China. They use different kinds of woods to produce their toys. Some of their toys even carry the FSC seal. The wood materials used in the production of these FSC-certified toys come from sustainably managed forests or plantations which are regularly and independently inspected and certified in accordance with the strict international guidelines of the Forest Steward Council (FSC). All the New Classic Toys are EN71 certified.

Eitech Toys
Eitech® toys are Made in Germany by Eichsfelder Technik eitech GmbH. The in-house production of their metal construction sets allows maximum safety standard. The components made of high-quality sheet steel from EU origin to create products that last as long as possible. Due to the composition and development of the individual parts, they can be combined almost infinitely and can therefore always be reused – over generations. For surface finishing, they use zinc electroplating, which is harmless to health, instead of the usual nickel plating. All plastic parts are produced by Eitech and contains no BPA, PVC, Phthalates or external coatings. The toys are packaged in recycled and recyclable materials. All of the Eitech® toys are EN71 certified. Eitech’s principle is to take environmental aspects into account in all sub-processes and to rely on suppliers that are as regional as possible.

Teifoc Construction
Teifoc® toys are Made in Germany by Eichsfelder Technik eitech GmbH. As material for the bricks, they use high-quality clay from Spain in the brick building sets. The water-soluble mortar consists of fine sand and corn extract – 100% natural materials. This makes the bricks reusable and extremely durable. All plastic parts are produced by Teifoc and contains no BPA, PVC, Phthalates or external coatings. The toys are packaged in recycled and recyclable materials. All of the Teifoc® toys are EN71 certified.

As I write this article, I am waiting on additional information from other suppliers that will be added soon. 

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