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Brief Published: 11 Dec 2019

Recycling & End-of-Life Imperative for Toy Brands


With parents increasingly concerned about the environmental impact of the fast-moving toys that they give to their children, brands must consider how their offering can facilitate responsible disposal at end-of-life. Recycling here offers a means to balance childrens’ evolving needs and desires, with the parents’ environmental resolve.

The ability to recycle or biodegrade old toys is becoming a key consideration for parents in store – offering guilt-free purchasing. Therefore, designing for the product’s afterlife should be an imperative for all toy brands. Recyclability is an easy solution here, as the process is familiar, and families already have the means to recycle from home.

Global paper manufacturer Smurfit Kappa saw the inherent alignment of this growing demand with its existing output, and created a new subsidiary brand Ekolife that produces paper toys for kids. The designs range from giant puzzles to cars and medieval fortresses, all made from corrugated cardboard that is sturdy enough to endure repeated play.

For the toys to be recyclable, they must be free from glue and additional joining elements. Ekolife solves this by employing flat sheets with jigsaw-like edges that slot together to create three-dimensional shapes. This also assists in the deconstruction of designs, so that they can easily be packed up and fit into a recycling bin. It is also important to consider how the choice of inks can affect recyclability.

Beyond environmental concerns, Ekolife hopes that its toys will also lure in parents through a clutter angle. With Christmas looming and parents feeling guilty buying new goods with an attic already crammed full, the brand hopes this ease of disposal will translate into continued sales with each new holiday season. 

The packaging of large household items, such as TV boxes, also offers an opportunity to create temporary kids’ toys. See The Human-Centric Approach for more.