April 24, 2011

Toy Story: The final chapter

Safely disposing of the kids' decommissioned toys can seem like mission impossible.

By SUSAN CARPENTER McClatchy Newspapers

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

What’s a responsible parent to do about clearing out used toys?

McClatchy Newspapers

Ultimately, I decided the most responsible destination for my box of broken goodies was Yes We Can E-Waste in downtown L.A. However, the organization couldn't guarantee that none of the contents of my box would get trashed by its recycler. I got rid of the bug maker and broken sword but kept the rest. As I was walking back to my car, a man on the street asked whether he could have two of the stuffed animals, which I gladly handed over. I gave the remaining 15 items to the Salvation Army, hoping the workers would salvage whatever else was possible. According to a spokeswoman for the charity, 20 percent of donated toys are in salable condition; 80 percent are recycled.

This entire exercise got me thinking: Why does the burden of toy disposal fall to consumers and ultimately the municipalities in which they live? Do any retailers or manufacturers take any responsibility for what they're selling?


Toys R Us has ongoing take-back programs for video games and video game hardware, and it ran a trade-in event for damaged cribs and baby items, but it does not reclaim and recycle any of its other toys. A spokesman for Mattel, which sells about 800 million toys worldwide each year, including Barbies and Hot Wheels, said the company has conducted some end-of-life pilot programs but doesn't have any take-back programs at this time.

A Hasbro rep conceded that "the recyclability of toys varies" and said the company is "committed to a wide range of steps in the coming years to build upon our successes" in environmental sustainability. He cited Play-Doh cups, which recently incorporated a No. 5 recycling symbol, and, as of this year, no longer use paper labels -- a move the company says will save more than 1,800 trees annually. This year, Hasbro also will eliminate all wire ties from its packaging.

The plush-toy maker Gund offers cleaning tips but doesn't provide any other suggestions for how to handle its polyester products once they've permanently been cast off the bed.

I am to blame for bringing so many toys into my house in the first place, and I'm making a concerted effort to cut down, but it's difficult, with all the random toys my son gets from birthday parties and as gifts.

My son is at an age when he's starting to feel peer pressure; he wants the same Bakugan Brawlers and yo-yos that his friends have. So I recently joined an online toy- and clothes-swapping service, ThredUp.com, which lets parents trade boxes of unwanted kid stuff. Earlier this week, I posted that I had a box of free "Popular Mechanics for Kids" DVDs, a ZhuZhu pet and a Star Wars light saber for anyone willing to pay the $10.95 shipping fee and $5 ThredUp service charge. A few hours later, I had a taker.

Twenty-nine items down. Just a few hundred to go.


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