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Where to recycle old toys
Recycle

Where to recycle old toys

Children outgrowing their old dolls & Legos? Here’s what to do with your kid’s unwanted toys. 

If you’re a parent, chances are you have a whole assortment of toys gathering dust at the back of your closet. Since broken or unwanted toys can be challenging to recycle, it may be tempting to just throw them away.  

But toys, especially those made from plastic, are a huge contributor to the waste stream. Did you know that over 40% of toys gifted during the holiday season will be broken by spring? And over 90% of modern toys are made of plastic, so many toys ending up in landfills are not biodegradable. Even worse, toys are frequently made from multiple types of plastics which cannot be recycled together.  

So, what’s the most eco-friendly way to declutter your toy bin? Fortunately, there are several options. 

Donate your used toys 

Before you recycle, first consider donating toys. If the toys are in good condition, thrift stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army will often take them. Local family shelters, churches, scout troops, and playgroups may also accept donations of certain items — it’s always worth asking!  

Rutabaga Toy Library also accepts donations of lightly used, high quality toys. You can bring in the toys during store browsing hours (Tuesday-Saturday, 10am to 2pm) or call/email ahead to schedule a drop-off time. Check their website for more information on accepted items.  

If you find yourself tossing out broken crayons, consider donating them instead to The Crayon Initiative, which melts down used crayons and donates them to children in hospitals. The Crayon Initiative provides helpful guides to teach you how to start crayon drives in your child’s school or scout troop and in your neighborhood or community (you will need to cover the cost of shipping the crayons). They also collect donations from restaurants, so if you work in the food service industry and hand out crayons at your restaurant, consider donating the leftover crayon nubs to help children in need and prevent non-biodegradable crayon wax from ending up in landfills.  

Find a recycling program 

Several large toy companies offer the option to recycle or donate your toys for you, either through their own program or through partnerships with TerraCycle. 

Lego Replay, Lego’s toy donation initiative, allows customers to donate used Legos back to the company.  The donated bricks are then sent to nonprofits such as Teach for America and Boys and Girls Club of Boston, who redistribute them to children in need. They accept bricks of all shapes and sizes, and you won’t even need to clean them — all you have to do is remove any batteries (button cell batteries don’t need to be removed), pack them up, print a free shipping label, and send them in.  

A number of toy companies have partnered with TerraCycle to make toy recycling simple and free. HasbroL.O.L. Surprise!Spin MasterVTech & LeapFrog, and Zuru all offer recycling programs through TerraCycle. Simply request a box and shipping label from TerraCycle, pack up the toys, and send them in. Before you ship, make sure that the toys you’re recycling are accepted (lists of accepted toys can be found on the linked program pages).  

Finally, if all else fails, Rabbit Recycling will take any and all toys, even broken ones. Simply request a bucket which you can use to return your toys (and other recyclables) for processing. Once they pick up the bucket, you will be charged — fees are $7 for the five gallon bucket and $16 for the 18 gallon bucket. 

Cover image courtesy of Pixabay


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Sophie Brous is an editorial intern at Green Philly. Born and raised in NYC, she now attends Haverford College, where she majors in linguistics. When she's not writing, she can be found exploring cities, making arts and crafts, and finding ways to live a greener lifestyle. View all posts by Sophie Brous

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