I stumbled across a pile of plastic toys dumped in bushland a while back. The scene clearly illustrates one of the problems with cheap plastic toys. They never ever go away. Every molecule of synthetic plastic ever created is still in existence somewhere on the planet, unless it was incinerated.
Long after plastic toys break (and sadly that’s often shortly after they were purchased) the plastic is still here. At best it’s recycled or buried deep in landfill. At worst it’s dumped in bushland and makes its way into waterways, ending up in the ocean where it contributes to a myriad of problems including the death of marine life.
A few years ago Little Eco really wanted Santa to bring her a pink plastic battery operated toy cash register. The packaging contained almost as much non-renewable petroleum-based toxic plastic as the toy and it was probably made by people working under very poor conditions.
Thankfully, Santa took the time to search for a safe, durable, ethically made timber cash register. It had buttons to press, a bell that rung, dials to turn, paper receipts to issue, a place to store coins, and even a scanner and credit card swipe - all this without the need for a single battery.
This very loved toy is still in perfect condition three years later – and will last long enough to be played with by Little Eco's children and grandchildren or to be passed on to numerous other children. I’m certain the plastic one would now be broken and discarded.
Choose quality over quantity when it comes to toys
Now that we are well into the countdown to Christmas, it is probably a good time to remind ourselves of the phrase ‘quality over quantity’. This phrase is particularly relevant when it comes to toys. Apparently, ‘lower priced’ ‘impulse purchases’ are one of the fastest growing areas for toy sales. I imagine last minute frantic Christmas shopping for just one more stocking stuffer, or just one more toy, contributes to this growth.
Before you head out for that last minute shopping spree, stop and consider the true cost of those cheap toys.
I’m sure our children really don’t need more cheap plastic rubbish. Our purchases impact their future.
Originally published in my Newcastle Herald column 'Less is More' 14th December 2013.