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Waste Not
Circularity, Sustainability Take Hold in Toy Industry

The closed-loop conversation is often one that focuses on e-waste, fashion and single-use plastics, but LEGO Group and Antwerp-based design furniture brand ecoBirdy are aiming to change that by bringing the concept of circularity and sustainability to the toy front.

Supported by the EU’s program for the competitiveness of SMEs (COSME), ecoBirdy has launched its first collection of design furniture for kids made entirely from recycled plastic toys. The launch follows two years of research exploring how to sustainably recycle plastic toys.

“We found that plastic toys use plastic more intensively than other consumer goods: 80 percent of plastic toys end up in landfills, incinerators or in the ocean. By giving old plastic new life, our aim is to free our ecosystem from its pernicious impact,” said Joris Vanbriel and Vanessa Yuan, Co-founders of ecoBirdy.

“As we use innovative technologies made for the reuse of plastic, there is no need to add any pigments or resin.”

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Showcased for the first time at the Maison&Objet furniture fair in Paris, ecoBirdy’s collection includes a colorful lightweight chair with rounded edges and a matching table, a storage container designed in the likeness of the endangered Kiwi bird and a rhino-shaped lamp. Due to accurate sorting, cleaning and grinding during the recycling process, the plastic used to create the products is free from harmful chemicals and is 100 percent safe.

Vanbriel and Yuan say that through the brand they aim to “create pieces that enable kids to experience creativity and at the same time raise awareness for sustainability.” In addition to producing new products, ecoBirdy has also developed a system for the collection and recycling of old or unused toys. The design, recycling and production of ecoBirdy furniture is all done in Europe using fair business practices.

To further its mission, the brand has created an accompanying limited-edition storybook as well as a school program that seeks to introduce kids to the circular economy and inspire them to contribute to a more sustainable future.

Meanwhile, the LEGO Group has joined the How2Recycle® initiative and will begin to provide US consumers with clear guidance on how to responsibly recycle their LEGO packaging later this year.

How2Recycle aims to promote recycling by reducing confusion through creating a clear, well-understood and nationally harmonized label that enables companies to convey to consumers how to recycle a package.

“LEGO bricks are designed to be reused and handed down through generations, but not everyone keeps their LEGO boxes,” said Tim Brooks, VP Environmental Responsibility for LEGO Group. “Implementing the How2Recycle label on LEGO packaging is an important step in minimizing landfill through clear guidelines, encouraging consumers to responsibly recycle their packaging.”

By the end of 2018, over 60 percent of new LEGO boxes in the US will feature the How2Recycle label. The LEGO Group plans to further extend the How2Recycle label to nearly all new North American products during 2019. The Group is also working on developing similar recycling labels for packaging in other markets.

LEGO has already taken several steps to improve the sustainability of its packaging. 100 percent of paper and cardboard used in LEGO products and packaging is sustainably sourced and certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Since 2014, the company’s products come in smaller boxes, saving approximately six thousand tons of cardboard a year and improving transport efficiency.

The company has also set a target to use sustainable alternatives to the current raw materials used for its LEGO products by 2030. In 2016, LEGO joined the Bio Plastic Feedstock Alliance and developed prototypes of next-generation bricks made from renewable materials, more specifically, a bioplastic derived from wheat.


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