The Plastic Toy Industry: The tale of how we wrote off the future of our children

The Plastic Toy Industry: The tale of how we wrote off the future of our children


There are days when each of us has a moment of epiphany when  reality hits us on the forehead, shakes and reverberates our ribcage and gives us goose bumps about what we have been blind to.

I had one of these moments this summer; my six-year-old son asked me, wordlessly by simply smiling and accelerating his pace, forcing me to follow him from one toy store to another from the ELC (the Early Learning Center) to Hamley’s and several other toy shops.  Shop after shop and, my sense of bewilderment only grew, my stomach twisting and dropping. At one point I went deaf and could not actually hear his voice only the echo of his sheer excitement to be buying yet another toy that he would be bored with within 2-3 weeks max.

 I  pinched myself and I sat down and tried to explain to the young man that at home he had a room full of different,  but similar other toys that he seemed all but forgotten about. He became silent but then he started  nodding appreciatively , as I suggested   to him a day-out on the beach, followed by a visit to the painting class that he enjoys attending, and where he draws his Sea Monsters, the cutest and most attractive monsters I have seen in my entire life.

 Well, now I want to talk about another Monster, which has grabbed the headlines of late. This monster has been polluting our seas, oceans, rivers, jungles and forests; from landfills to every corner of a modern society one can find the footprints of this Monster.

The total global toy industry is worth UK73.7billion£ (USD 89bn) and the share of United States market is a strong and staggeringly with a dangerous 25% market share of the total industry sales, standing a UK£17.1 (USD 20.7bn). The total global toy industry is equal to the GDP of Kenya or 2 times bigger than the GDP of Tunisia.

It is almost impossible to step into a toy store and not be overwhelmed by the amount, weight and vulgar presence of plastics. Now embedded in each of those toys are at least 2 or sometimes 6 AA batteries and then you need another comprehensive analysis of the integrated damage that the toy industry has on the environment.

According to some estimates a good 50% of these batteries are not recycled properly and could end up littering the environment.  After all which mum with two infants would make that extra trip to a designated outlet or facility to dispose the batteries in a responsible manner.

The very toys we buy for these future heirs of planet earth, are made in various forms, shape or fashion as if not seasonal, monthly or in most cases a weekly stepping stone to boredom before a new toy is launched, and before our children are taken over by the three avalanches of:


  1.     Advertising machine be it above the line, or social media
  2.     The peer pressure of another friend, cousin or classmate
  3.     Our inability to spend quality time with them, and succumbing in substituting our guilt with a toy after a business trip


The question here is not how we can cut their addiction to plastic toys, but perhaps how we can substitute their craving to a more meaningful form of entertainment?

What if tomorrow USD 20bn of the money that we as parents spend on toys would have been allocated to setting up a fund to fight the polluted seas, oceans and around the planet?

Why can’t we cut our budgets on toys for only one year by a quarter, globally and to set up an SPV, perhaps we can even call it the Monster Fund, an SPV that could invest clearly in fighting this malaise.

 A fund that could hire the best brains, stellar anthropologist, environmentalists and infant and children psychologists that could help the fund to not only identify new games for the children, but also to engage the best financial experts to develop a game plan that can be free from a Plastic Footprint in the game-rooms of our children. We have to stop making our children numb from childhood. We have to remind them that being in nature, being out there being able to swim, to fish and to eat without the worry of pollution is the biggest joy in life.

 The idea for an SPV/fund is not a fantasy. The fund raising is a matter of will; we have to have the courage to fight the Monster, to fight together and to do so by  allocating in cash a mere quarter of our annual toy budget for only one year.

 The fund can then pull in further Private & Public benefactors and we can draw on various countries like Scandinavia, Japan,and the EU. The dividend? The future with a clean, sustainable, meaningful and purposeful environment in which our children, grand-children and future generations can live, thrive and flourish.

 I once read “little things matter and those who say they don’t have never spend a night in a bed with a mosquito”.

 The Monster is in our children’s bedrooms. Let us not lose sight of what we can accomplish together.


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