This Company Makes Toys From Recycled Plastic

Green Toys makes beach pails, rockets, and Sesame Street gardening kits out of recycled plastic milk jugs.


May 31 2019, Updated 12:08 p.m. ET

It’s a bold move to call your company Green Toys. You’re not only inviting skeptics to pore over your environmental credentials — you’re also positioning yourself as a leader in the space, a trailblazer for other enterprising toymakers to admire. But Green Toys has been living up to its name for the past decade through its unique manufacturing process, which relies completely on post-consumer plastic.

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Green Toys launched in California back in 2007. Founders Laurie Hyman and Robert von Goeben wanted to create a line of environmentally mindful toys — safe ones with a low carbon footprint that would still delight kids. That naturally led to an important question: what materials should they use to create the toys? 

They decided on recycled plastic. Most of it comes from milk jugs, but the company also uses yogurt cups and other plastic sources. After collecting the scraps, Green Toys cleans and shreds the plastic into small flakes, which are reprocessed and mixed with mineral-based coloring. The resulting material forms everything from tugboats to tea sets, which are packaged in 100 percent recycled cardboard boxes with soy ink. If the toy needs extra packaging to keep it in place, Green Toys binds it with recycled plastic water bottles.

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The company also prides itself on being American made. Green Toys makes and distributes all its products stateside, keeping their transportation emissions at a minimum.

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By adopting this eco-friendly process, Green Toys has recycled lots of milk jugs — nearly 56 million, by the company’s own count. Its mission to reduce plastic waste further extends to its partnerships with Sustainable Surf, a non-profit dedicated to “protecting the ocean playground,” and NatureBridge, which educates kids on environmental science.

Safety is another big talking point for Green Toys, whose products are extra gentle on small hands. The company doesn’t use metal screws, glue, or harsh paints. Nothing is battery operated, and nothing contains BPA, PVC, or phthalates.

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But what kind of toys are they selling? Browse the website and you’ll find pastel cups and pots for a play kitchen. There’s a bright green “EcoSaucer” (better known as a frisbee) and organic play dough that can be molded into tiny pizzas or race cars. According to Amanda Carguila, a press representative for Green Toys, the dump truck is a perennial bestseller, as is the more brand appropriate recycling truck. Customers also seem to love the tea sets, ferry boats, and flower arranging playset “Build a Bouquet.”

Green Toys is likely to expand its reach even further through its new activity sets, starring some very famous faces. The company recently partnered up with Sesame Street on a line of plastic pails, shovels, and watering cans aimed at getting toddlers and elementary-aged kids excited about the outdoors — and hopefully, tending to their own gardens. Elmo and Abby appear in accompanying booklets, which guide children through planting basil and sunflower seeds. Cookie Monster also has a cameo.

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With shelf space at Target, Kohl's, Wal-Mart, and Amazon, Green Toys is already one of the most recognizable names in eco-friendly toy market. But if the company's recent work is any indication, it's poised for an even busier next decade in business.

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