The real cost of toys

Richard Heayes looks at how our industry manages the delicate balancing act between making great products and also being environmentally conscientious.
Publish date:
Social count:

When I started out in design, I was really just interested in creating cutting edge products which looked cool with great features - what I quickly learned is that all of those design decisions have an environmental cost.

I remember my very first trip to a Chinese vendor some 20 years ago. After the buzz of visiting Hong Kong for the first time, it struck me that I wasn’t sure I was going to like what I saw the next day, visiting vendors in Shenzhen.

However, walking through the many floors of the first vendor, I was pleasantly surprised. Sure this was no EU factory, but it was well organised with smartly dressed, mainly young adult workers.

Back in the Nineties, the cost of labour in China was so low it barely figured on the cost calculations. I saw some crazy things being done to avoid the investment in machinery. Thankfully, things are now changing for the better and the impact of labour and materials is being taken more seriously by all responsible global corporations.

The toy business was one of the first western businesses to enter China, so we should set the standard for others to follow.

It was pleasing to see Hasbro awarded for its recycling and sourcing efforts on paper and card for packaging, one of many environmental initiatives they are taking.

LEGO have also heavily invested in its efforts to find replacements for oil-based plastics. If they crack it, they could be a fantastic material for a manner of different uses. In fact, most major toy companies have ethical issues high on their agendas - that’s no surprise but it’s good to see the industry continuing to step up.

However, the balance between making great products and also being environmentally aware is a continuous challenge.

Putting electronics inside a sealed unit for example is great for manufacturing and reliability, but you can’t recycle it resulting in several electronic toys being tossed into landfill.

Good toys and games should promote wellbeing. Play is good for us all but when those toys have had their day, they cannot just end up decaying and contaminating the planet. That just isn’t sustainable and it isn’t good business.

It’s up to everybody in the product development chain to think carefully about the decisions they make as they will have a direct impact on the environment (every new product does).

Creating quality products that last, which can be easily recycled as well as implementing ethical sourcing will not only be good for business but good for our children's future.


0 Kiddiwinks.png

The Creative Index

Heayes Design's Richard Heayes explains why we should be concerned that children are showing lower signs of creative problem solving and imagination.

Featured Jobs

Gameplan Job Logo 620 x 349

Sales Director UK

Our client is a well established privately owned UK toy manufacturer which has won numerous awards for outstandingly innovative toys, gifts and gadgets. A correspondingly outstanding and talented UK Sales Director is to be recruited who has the potential, the will, the drive and the ambition to advance to a higher position within a few years.

Vivid Job Logo 620 x 349

Digital Marketing Executive - Toys & Games

Vivid is Britain’s biggest toy company and the 20 largest in the world. With offices across the globe, they sell an amazing portfolio of toys and games to over 60 countries. Vivid is best known for its association with blockbuster brands and is very excited about future opportunities around the world.

Melissa and Doug Job Logo 620 x 349

Operations Planner

Imagine working for a company with a mission you can truly believe in, a playful and energetic culture, a talented team and a bright future! Melissa & Doug, the toy company committed to nurturing childhood wonder, is looking for an Operations Planner to coordinate the demand planning and supply between European markets and the US.

HIT Entertainment Job Logo 620 x 349

Licensing Systems Administrator

The Contract System Coordinator is a newly created role to support the deal term entry process into Mattel’s new Contract Management System for its Licensing business. The role will support the Business Teams at the Deal & Amendment phase of the contracting process and act in conjunction with the System Administration team.