Every year there is a growing selection of toys to entertain our kids with. That’s a wonderful thing and what a great time to be a kid! This also means every child now has more toys than ever before. What do you do when the novelty wears off?

Thankfully, there are a number of ways to sustainably extend and maximize the lifetime usage of every toy. So our kids can have fun while reducing unnecessary waste and environmental impact.

First, don’t throw out your old toys in the garbage!
If you take away just one message from this article, it is this: save the garbage bin as a last resort, only after you’ve exhausted all other options we’ll discuss shortly. A discarded toy adds to the landfill, and will never be played again. There are so many better alternatives.

The 3 Rs

Kids stop playing with their toy for two main reasons: it’s either broken or they’ve become bored/disinterested.  If it’s broken and can be fixed, then the obvious route is to repair it. Depending on the difficulty level and your handiness, you can either fix the toy yourself or send it in for professional repair.
It also pays to buy toys made with good quality in the first place, so they won’t break down as easily. And choose toys that carry a longer warranty. You might pay a little more upfront, but the lower long term cost and better durability are surely worth it down the road.

For toys that have fallen out of a child’s favor for one reason or another but are still in good, playable condition, it’s time to think about ways to reuse them. After all, it’s an almost new toy to someone else! You’ll be surprised by the myriad of options at your disposal. Below are a few to get you started:

  • Pass it to a sibling
  • Gift it to a friend’s child or a distant family member at the next party or family gathering
  • Exchange toys with a neighbor or schoolmate
  • Or you could resell it to pocket some change towards the next shiny toy.

There is no shortage of places to do so:

  • Sell it at garage sales
  • Sell it on Facebook marketplace, eBay, Letgo, Kijiji, or other online peer-to-peer sites

You can also go the altruist route and donate your toy to a charity. Your local donation center or thrift store will gladly accept and distribute them to other kids in need. Do a great deed and make someone else’s child very happy, now what can be more satisfying than that?

Finally, for toys that are completely broken beyond repair, it’s time to get them recycled so they can be safely disposed of. Again, please do not throw them away in the garbage. To make things easier, here is a summary of how you can have them recycled:

  • Contact the original toy manufacturer to find out if they have a recycling program
  • Call your local municipality to see if they have a toy recycling site
  • TerraCycle runs a recycling program for toys. Check out their website here to see if they accept your toy. If yes, all you have to is send them your toys in a box. They will take care of the rest.
  • If your toy is all metal, you can drop them off at your nearest scrap yard
  • If your toy is electronic, use Earth911 Recycling Search to find electronics recyclers in your area. Many national box stores also have similar recycling programs.

As you can see, there are many sensible ways to maximize the fun and joy out of every toy. Next time you are trying to decide what to do with an underappreciated toy, please consider all the options we’ve listed here and make the right choice!

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