Hasbro is starting by eliminating plastic packaging in new products.
Hasbro, the US-based manufacturer of popular toy lines like Littlest Pet Shop, Marvel, and other Disney-branded products, announced Tuesday that it will start phasing out plastic packaging from its new products and aims to stop using the packaging material entirely by 2022. (Around two-thirds of the company’s portfolio is new each year, Bloomberg reports.)
Redesigning the company’s decades-old packaging was “a complex undertaking,” said chief operating officer John Frascotti in a press release. The new packaging will differ according to the product’s design and feasibility, a Hasbro spokesperson told Vox. Some toys would be unpackaged or wrapped in paper instead of plastic.
But many of Hasbro’s toys and games, like the popular Transformers action figures and Mr. Potato Heads, will still be made from plastic — at least for the foreseeable future. The company said it is “actively exploring” alternate materials for its future products.
Still, most of the toy industry — with the exception of a handful of start-ups — has yet to focus on crafting eco-friendly, sustainable gadgets. Last year, Lego announced it will develop pieces from “sustainable, plant-based” plastic (made from plant biomass, not oil).
Plastics, an industry publication, estimates that 90 percent of toys on the market are plastic. The material’s popularity in toy-making skyrocketed after World War II, since materials like wood, metal, and rubber were rationed for wartime efforts. Retail stores discontinued certain toys during the war to comply with material limitations, according to a blog from the National Museum of Play in New York, pushing toymakers to try new craft materials.
In the 1950s, Fisher Price started to develop plastic toys like the classic Buzzy Bee. Hasbro launched a line of military-themed dolls the following decade, and its G.I. Joe doll became one of its first commercially successful products. But the quality of vintage toys and manufacturing standards changed over time, as companies moved production overseas — mainly to China — to offset labor costs. (Hasbro is moving its manufacturers to the United States, Mexico, Vietnam and India in the midst of the U.S.-China trade war.)
Then there’s the issue of recycling, a problem reserved for parents of toy-hoarding kids. Plastic toys are not solely plastic. They’re composed of a host of materials, which is hard to process at a typical municipal recycling center.
Last year, Hasbro launched a U.S. recycling program with TerraCycle, a company that focuses on hard-to-recycle products, and is expanding to Germany and France.
“TerraCycle breaks down and separates the toy’s material-type, cleans the plastic, and then grinds it down into pellets that can then be reshaped for use in new, recycled products like shipping pallets and park benches,” according to Yahoo Lifestyle.
It’s a noteworthy initiative by one of America’s largest toy manufacturers to encourage families to recycle to make room for the new, and to completely cut plastic from its packaging.
Hasbro takes pride in working to be “a leader in sustainability,” according to its CEO. But considering the legions of toys that are created and sold almost daily, a large-scale shift in the industry needs to take place — something more than requiring families to pack up a box of old toys.
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