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Brief Published: 8 Jun 2021

Mattel Launches Toy Recycling Scheme


American company Mattel has launched a toy recycling scheme called PlayBack to divert old playthings from landfill. The project illustrates how taking responsibility for the waste that a company creates can not only build consumer trust, but also provide a valuable source of materials for new products.

PlayBack allows kids and parents to pack up old toys and return them to the company using a pre-paid shipping label, available online. The service provides a hassle-free way for families to responsibly clear out clutter that would otherwise likely be sent to landfill. Launched last month, the service is currently only available for Mattel’s Barbie, Matchbox and Mega brands in the US and Canada, with other brands and regions to be included over time.

The collected toys will be sorted by material type and repurposed or recycled into new products. Those made from non-recyclable materials, however, will be downcycled or converted from waste to energy.

The service is part of Mattel’s journey towards achieving its pledge to use only recycled, recyclable or bio-based plastics across all products and packaging by 2030. Last year, the company introduced bio-based toys for its Fisher-Price and Mega brands, developed a fully recyclable deck of paper Uno cards, and previewed a Matchbox Tesla Roadster made from 99% recycled metal and plastic.

While the company continues to roll out new and updated products in eco-friendly materials, the returns service helps to reduce the environmental impact of older products. Moreover, with Mattel promising to increase its use of recycled content, the scheme enables it to recuperate this material for new designs. 

Sustainability is not just a concern for parents – an Australian study found 97% of 12- to 18-year-olds feel sad when they see plastic waste (YouGov, 2019). So reducing plastic waste must become a priority for toy brands looking to win favour with both parents and children. 

See The Brief for more on how paper is helping to boost toy recyclability, and read The Plastics Landscape 2021 to find out how brands are working to reduce plastic waste.