Tag Archives: stainless steel toys

How To Sustainably Dispose of Old Toys

Okay, parents, it’s time to be honest. Is it possible that your child has too many toys? I know, I know, we all want to spoil our kids a little. But when the toys start overflowing the toy chest or covering every spare surface, it might be time to get rid of a few.

Unfortunately, the toy industry is typically pretty environmentally unfriendly, and simply throwing away old toys isn’t always the best option for sustainability. Let’s review a few options for how to sustainably get rid of your old toys.

1. Donate your old toys

The most eco-friendly option for disposing of old toys is to donate them. This keeps toys out of the landfill and reduces the need to produce new toys. Luckily, there are many different options for where to donate your toys that are still in working condition. First, if you’re lucky enough to have friends with kids, that’s a great way to make sure your old toys will get some use again! You can also choose to donate to a charity thrift store like Goodwill, that takes old toys and resells them. Cradles to Crayons is another charity that takes donated toys and gives them to families in need.

Additionally, many children’s and women’s shelters, hospitals, and daycare centers will accept toy donations. Some neighborhoods may even have toy libraries, where you can exchange toys for free. For an easy, online option, you can always choose to give away or sell your toys through an online marketplace like Ebay or Facebook. As long as the toys are in good shape, donation is a great sustainable way to make sure your toys make another kid very happy.

2. Recycle your old toys

Believe it or not, some toys can actually be recycled. Even better, some toys, like unpainted or naturally-dyed wooden toys, can even be composted. While the recycling rules usually depend on your local recycling center’s discretion, generally, toys made from recyclable materials like stainless steel and other metals can be recycled. Some towns also accept large, rigid plastic toys. Finally, many electronic components in toys can be recycled.

Recycling not only reduces the amount of new plastic that must be produced, but it helps avoid chemicals and microplastics leaching from landfilled plastic toys into the environment.  While some toys are tested to ensure that they don’t contain any dangerous (or restricted) chemicals, not all toys are, so it’s best to make sure that the toys can be processed correctly in a recycling plant.

That said, some toys can’t be recycled, so it’s important to double check the materials before you get rid of them to make sure you’re not “wishcycling” (recycling something that can’t actually be recycled, which makes recycling the whole bundle more difficult or impossible). Some local recycling centers may only accept some types of toys or plastics. 

If you’ve got a big bundle of toys and you’re not sure whether they can be recycled, check out toy company Mattel’s PlayBack Program, which allows you to simply ship old toys back to the company for recycling. Currently, the program is limited to only a few brands of toys but it is expected to expand in the future. The company TerraCycle also has a free recycling program for all Hasbro brand toys.

3. Upcycle your old toys

If you’re feeling a little creative, you can find a way to upcycle some of your child’s old toys. Upcycling is the process of repurposing something to give it a new use, rather than getting rid of it. A few examples include a container made of your kid’s old legos, or using old pool noodles to make door wreaths. Some creative folks even use repainted plastic animals as elegant bookends or decor.

4. Follow a “one-in, one-out” rule

Follow a one-in, one-out rule for new toys: when you buy a new toy, try to get rid of an old one. While this isn’t about getting rid of old toys, the rule can help you avoid ending up in the same position with toys everywhere (again). This can also help you make more thoughtful, eco-friendly decisions when buying toys, as you’ll have to consider whether it’s really better than the toys you have at home (after all, those are the most eco-friendly toys!).

Of course, the most sustainable thing you can do is to avoid buying new toys, as each new toy you buy has to be manufactured, which does have some negative environmental impacts. However, if you do choose to buy new to replace old toys, it’s important to keep sustainability in mind. Vote with your wallet to support sustainable companies. Choose toys made from recyclable, non-toxic materials and make sure to buy toys that will last a long time; there’s nothing worse than buying a new toy only to have to dispose of it in a month. 

Hopefully, next time you need to do a little decluttering, you can get rid of your old toys in a way that feels good for both you and the environment.

Kleynimals Advocacy for Lead-Free Toys

Kleynimals Lead-Free Toys

When I first set out to make Kleynimals stainless steel toy keys, my mission was to create baby keys that would be realistic, high quality, practical, eco-friendly and have enduring style.  My biggest goal, however, was to provide parents and babies with the safest baby products I could, which meant they would be non-toxic and lead-free.  Thus, after coming up with my original idea, the first thing I did was call the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission to make sure that I understood how to make my dream a reality based on the CPSC guidelines for baby product safety standards. Little did I know how this initial act put me on their radar… 

Shortly after I launched my Kleynimals toy keys in 2010, I received a call from someone at the CPSC.  My heart sunk into my stomach.  What had I done wrong that they were already calling? The person on the other end began to inquire as to why I tested my products for lead when it was not required for stainless steel products. My reply was that I simply wanted to provide parents with safe baby toys. As a mother, I wanted to know for certain that everything I gave my children was completely non-toxic, and other parents deserved the same assurances. Thankfully, at this point I received some reassurances that they were actually calling because they were impressed that I had gone above and beyond with my safety testing, and that yes, they had been following my product development since my original call (in 2009). At this point, they invited me to testify in trials that were being held to discuss more rigorous lead testing in children’s products.  I was honored to testify, but sadly was one of the only manufacturers present who was a “pro-testing” advocate. 

Now with a larger line of metal baby silverware and baby toys, I continue to be committed to offering safe baby products made in the USA from American sourced stainless steel. All of my products are tested to safety standards from multiple countries for both physical safety testing as well as toxic chemicals. They are all lead-free (and free of cadmium, BPA and all the other nasties). Parents can feel confident that when they give their babies Kleynimals products, they are only giving them the very best.  I hope you enjoy reading my testimony below. Thank you for supporting my small business! ~Kirsten, Mom, Founder, CEO

My Testimony:

Thank you for allowing me to present to you today.  I am a mother of two young boys and a recent entrepreneur.  I have been working on a toy product for two years and just recently launched my toy for sales on December 1st 2010.  The toy is a set of keys for babies six months and up that are made entirely of food grade stainless steel (stainless 304).  

I want to give a little background on my motivation to create this toy prior to talking through the logistics of testing.  Over the past six years, really since the birth of my first son, I have become more and more aware of the various toxins in our environment that I truly believe are leading to increased rates of illness in our population – whether that be developmental delays, autism or cancer.  My evolution started with food, and then moved to cleaning supplies, skin/hair care products and eventually toys and consumer goods.  I am not a scientist, so I am not here to present the facts behind how the various chemicals impact us, however, I am sure many of you have heard of the numerous studies – most recently about BPA and lead. I have become an incredibly skeptical consumer as a result, even if I don’t always have a study that proves my suspicions. What I know is that I have a friend who told me that in one week recently she learned of 6 people between the ages of newborn to mid 30’s who were diagnosed with cancer.  I hear stories like this all too often and I think that we should all be alarmed enough to insist on changes. 

The reality is that most kids put toys in their mouths.  I was not as sensitive to this with my first son, who absolutely loved Thomas the train, but fortunately did not put them in his mouth.  When many of the Thomas products were recalled because of lead in the paint, I sent all of the affected ones back to the company.  But, I did not worry too much from a personal standpoint because my eldest did not put toys in his mouth.  However, my second son has been a totally different story because he puts everything in his mouth. Therefore, as a consumer I find myself seeking toys that are from European companies because of the more stringent restrictions on toxic chemicals in their products (for instance, >90 PPM  of lead in a solubility test).  So, while I am particular about what I purchase for my kids, they also have generous grandparents who don’t specifically seek out European restrictions.  In fact, they more often purchase items from discount stores that come from China and that make me cringe when I see my youngest chomping on them.  

Thus, when the idea struck me that the market needed a better toy key alternative, I was committed to designing something that was absolutely safe for all kids, because in the end, it’s not just a personal thing – it’s not just my child that matters.  It’s also not just about making money.  It’s about providing a product that hopefully is a winning business model, but that ultimately is safe for the individual kids enjoying it.  It’s a product that does not lead a parent to cringe when their child inevitably puts it in his mouth. 

So, how did I get from that idea for a toy and commitment to safety to actually launching my product?  I was lucky in that I knew I could make the product out of a safe material – something that we eat off of and cook with every day – food grade stainless steel.  Honestly, the material itself was the motivating factor behind my idea.  When it came to the logistics of getting the toy to market, beyond the obvious cost of manufacturing, the other costs I had to consider were testing the product for compliance and liability insurance.  I never considered not testing, for that would have been a risk to my company for lawsuits and recalls.  And back to individual children  – it also would have meant risking their safety.  I also never considered not doing the lead testing because I wanted to be able to assure parents that I was offering a completely safe product.  From a consumer perspective, I know I want the assurances (again, back to my desire for European standards).  When it came down to the expense of it all, the liability insurance was what nearly led me to give up on my dream of producing the keys.  It was not the testing.  Liability insurance for someone like me was over $8000.  Testing, including additional testing for cadmium, lead and nickel, was still less than $1000, and of note, I was not required to test for any of these contaminants because I used stainless steel 304, but I wanted to go above and beyond the requirements.

Realistically, had the test results come back and were shown to have lead in the toy, I would have been rather devastated.  However, I made it clear in my purchase order with the manufacturer that I wanted material certifications for the stainless steel, and specifically that it could not contain lead. This was not difficult to request, and it seems to me that all manufacturers could require material certification prior to purchasing the material used for the components of their toys.  

If Europe is holding companies accountable to safeguard their citizens by having more stringent restrictions, what makes it so difficult to do here?  Back to my story about Thomas the Train since that is the one that affected my family (and this is not to single them out, because I know it has happened to many companies, god forbid it happens to mine)…But, would that company not have saved money by finding out before manufacturing their product what was in the paint?  Could we not take steps to ensure that components are safe before they are made into the final product?  Ultimately, I have to believe that the cost of a recall – both from the practical expense of performing the recall, but also because of the detriment to the brand – has to cost more than ensuring components are safe from the beginning.  And frankly, if it is a question of a company using a manufacturer who has misled them, a contract stipulating exactly what is expected as far as material should be part of the negotiations from the beginning.  If the product does not meet the specified safety expectations, that contract should denote that the manufacturer needs to take the financial risk so that they are held accountable.

Why is it that we cannot offer the citizens of the US the same kind of safety protections as are afforded European citizens? I truly believe that a responsible company is one who is honest about the end result of their product on the individual – whether that be a direct impact through chemicals in the product or an indirect impact through deleterious effects on our environment (for example, water and air quality). In the end, what costs us more as a country is treating illnesses caused by the harmful effects of known toxins like lead, especially in the most vulnerable little bodies that are even more susceptible because of their small size.  In the end, don’t we all want our loved ones to be safe… and isn’t everyone someone’s loved one?