If you have kids, you likely have way too many toys. Even if you don’t buy many, there’s a seemingly constant influx of grandparent gifts, birthday and Christmas presents, goody-bag swag, and hand-me-down toys from neighbors and friends. It can make for a very crowded, cluttered playroom. (And kitchen, and family room, and basement…because all toys inevitably migrate).
When your little ones have finally outgrown them (or trashed them to the point they no longer work), the question becomes, what do you do with them all? While it’s easy enough to sell or donate gently used toys to friends, family, or a local charity, for the pirate ships and cash registers that are battered, broken, and can’t be safely donated, you can either toss them in the trash—which can come with a not insignificant pang of environmental guilt—or participate in the Mattel “PlayBack” program, which is designed to recover and reuse materials found in the toys for use in future Mattel products.
When we last wrote about the program, it was only available in the United States and Canada, and only accepting the Barbie, Matchbox, and MEGA brands. Recently, it has expanded to include Fisher-Price products, (including the Laugh & Learn, Little People, and Imaginext brands), and is now available in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom.
Designed to help Mattel reach its corporate goal of using 100% recycled, recyclable, or bio-phased plastic materials in all its products and packaging by 2030, the PlayBack program allows families to easily register for the program to receive a prepaid shipping label by email. Simply print the label, remove any batteries from the toys, and box them up (in any condition, no need to clean or repair, according to their FAQs) and drop them at your local post office. All those beheaded Ken dolls and MEGA Bloks will then make their way to the company’s processing location in East Aurora, New York to begin their upcycling journey.
Whenever possible, they will recover the old toy’s still usable materials so they can be reused in new products. According to Mattel, “For materials that cannot be repurposed as recycled content into new toys, we will either downcycle those materials into other plastic products or convert them from waste to energy.”
While it’s not clear what that means, exactly, the PlayBack program certainly solves a pain point for many parents who’d like to do what they can, however small, to keep excess plastic out of landfills.