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Get rid of post-holiday clutter: How to recycle unwanted toys

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(NEW YORK) — The influx of new stuff that makes its way into homes over the holiday season can be overwhelming for families, but so can figuring out what to do with it all.

For parents hoping to declutter post holidays in the most sustainable way possible, there are ways to discard old toys while minimizing environmental harm by preventing them from ending up in a landfill.

TerraCycle, a New Jersey-based recycling company, is requesting toys that families no longer want but are not suitable for curbside recycling, Tom Szaky, founder and CEO of TerraCycle, told ABC News. The waste management company sorts, cleans, shreds, crushes and melts down the toys into materials that are later used to make goods like lunchboxes and flower pots.

An estimated 3 billion toys are sold in the U.S. every year, according to The Toy Association, a business trade association.

The “vast majority” of toys are thrown out after just one child has played with them, Szaky said.

The company said it has prevented at least 550,000 pounds of landfill waste over the last four years with the recycling of more than four million toys. In the last four years, TerraCycle has launched six different free toy recycling programs in the U.S. taking items that typically cannot be recycled, such as pet toys and pool inflatables, Szaky said.

Toys can be sent to TerraCycle by either requesting a shipping label sponsored by a brand — such as prominent toy company Hasbro — or by purchasing a “Zero Waste Box.”

“The industry is really caring more and more and this is because people are asking, ‘Well, what happens to my toy once my child is done playing with it?'” Szaky said.

Szaky emphasized that recycling is not a perfect solution and that it is still up to the toy industry and consumers to push for better alternatives to dealing with plastics and other waste.

Much of the plastic that was sent to recycling centers ended up in a landfill, Lisa Ramsden, a senior plastics campaigner at Greenpeace USA and one of the authors of the report, told ABC News in 2022.

Consumers can also help prevent unnecessary waste by making conscious purchasing decisions, such as really considering whether their child will actually enjoy the toy for a long period of time before they buy it, Szaky said.

Buying toys used — or selling old ones online — is also key to keeping toys out of landfills, according to experts.

The most popular resale brands include Squishmallows, Disney, Lego, American Girl and Barbie, according to Poshmark. The most popular category of toys include stuffed animals, dolls and accessories, action figures and playsets, building sets and blocks as well as learning toys, the company said.

Other good places to donate toys include charities, local “Buy Nothing” groups, hospitals, children’s shelters, day care centers and houses of worship, according to Good Housekeeping.

 

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