There is so much petroleum-based plastic in the world’s landfills and oceans that there is movement towards a United Nations treaty that will cap plastics production. Although it is difficult to know exactly how it would be enforced or even how the inevitable rationing will occur, the toy industry needs to heed.
Negotiations are to begin this month. Here is how The Washington Post describes the discussions:
The discussions, which have the backing of the Biden administration, could reshape a world increasingly awash in plastics that take centuries to break down and millennia to decompose. Diplomats could agree to caps on plastic production that would forestall the exponential increases that are expected in the coming decades. They could also impose rules to make plastic easier and less toxic to repurpose, amid growing concern that only 10 percent of the material ever made has been recycled.“Plastics production is skyrocketing. A new U.N. treaty effort could cap it.” Michael Birnbaum
and Min joo kim, Washington Post, February 8, 2022.
Plastics and other ecology-based issues are not, at this time, on the minds of toy industry members. Our December survey indicated that only 3.2% of respondents were concerned about “Green” issues. That is compared to 77.5% who were worried about the Supply Chain and 69.3% who were uneasy about Inflation. Granted, toy industry members are justly worried about issues that make a here-and-now difference in their business. Still, issues like plastics in the ocean worry children and their parents.
The Spielwarenmesse recently released the results of its Toys Go Green Survey on sustainable toys. Working with the Spanish AIJU Technological Institute for Children’s Products and Leisure, they surveyed 2812 families, with roughly 400 responses each from China, the UK, Spain, France, the US, Germany, and Italy. This geographic spread assured that the findings were not skewed to any one part of the world.
62% of respondents saw toys made from sustainable materials as an essential and ongoing concern. What I found interesting were the materials they considered the most sustainable. Here is a graph from the report:
If you are in the wooden toy business, you should be feeling pretty good. Not so much if you are using petroleum-based, non-recycled plastic. It didn’t make the list.
Sustainability in toys is not a fad and based upon the UN’s actions; the choice of whether to use petroleum-based plastics may be taken out of our hands. If petroleum-based plastic is eventually rationed, higher-priced products will get the lion’s share of the material. Toys will be at the bottom of the list.
Fortunately, petroleum-based plastics are a solvable problem. With only 10% of plastic currently being recycled, there is room for progress while we master bio-plastics.