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Issue 03/2019

Highlights: Toys Injection Moulding Basics: Microplastics Mind the right terms Captured CO2

Toys Consumer attitudes

Toys Consumer attitudes and bioplastics for Eco-babies & Bio-parenting By: Clara Blasco, Design & Trend Researcher at Consumer Insights Ana Ibáñez, Bioplastic Researcher at Innovative Materials & Manufacturing Paco Varela, European Project Manager at R&D Department María Costa, R&D Director AIJU, Technological Institute for children’s products and leisure Ibi, Spain. Environmental protection is a challenge that cannot be faced by political and economic means alone. As society at large awakens to this task, the children’s products sector must have the commitment to contribute by incorporating environmental values in toy production and consumption. Companies have the responsibility to create innovative strategies to enhance sustainability. In this respect, the owners of companies in the children’s products industry are key stakeholders in implementing and accelerating the biobased economy. Understanding parents’ requirements and attitudes and implementing research into biobased plastics are two ways to face this new reality. AIJU, the Technological Institute for Children’s Products and Leisure — a European research institution which aims to boost research, development and technological innovation in children’s products — have a long history of work on issues of sustainability. Among other competences, AIJU has expertise in studies with children and families as users and consumers as well as research into new plastic materials to be applied in the children’s sector. New parents, new values The term sustainability means protecting the environment and its natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance. In this respect, society is acquiring greater awareness of issues related to the environment that are, now more than ever before, influencing the purchasing decisions of today’s new parents — the millennials. Millennials are the generation of people who reached young adulthood in the early twenty-first century, and as parents they have new values and preferences. Families are aware of social challenges: society has undergone the so-called fourth wave of feminism, parents are demanding effective work-life balance policies, and they are also promoting equality and denouncing gender stereotypes. Beyond these issues, society has been becoming more activist. On the other hand, new parents are aware of environmental challenges such as climate change and plastic pollution. There is also an increasing concern about air pollution. Parents want to keep their children safe by using products that help create a healthier environment for their babies. It is also relevant that many new parents want to protect children from consumerism. They have a new concept of consumption which is defined by welcoming practices that reduce consumerism and the rise of use of second-hand articles and renting activities. Although each new parenting style understands sustainability differently, a sensitivity towards this concept is common to all of them. Whereas some parents only look for essential products that are respectful to people and the planet — products they can justify purchasing — other profiles understand that a product is sustainable when is adaptable for different ages and the product has a long life. There are other kinds of parents who seek products with an eco concept that is linked with quality, exclusivity, and luxury, whereas others will buy eco products if they offer the healthiest option in the market. The understanding of social changes, together with an awareness of governmental policies and the campaigns being initiated by large companies across several sectors, highlights the need for an in-depth reflexion in the children’s sector. Sustainability approaches for the toy industry Sustainability can be approached in several ways — not only by introducing eco-friendly materials, but by employing manufacturing processes, carrying out campaigns, or designing play proposals that are in harmony with improving people’s lives and the health of our planet. The text below lays out a series of measures and practices that companies targeting the children’s market can apply to their strategic definition, product development, and marketing strategies in order to achieve a meaningful and respectful impact. New and old materials that make the difference Toy companies have at their disposal a range of materials that are environmentally friendly, and are perceived as such by consumers. If a single material can be named as iconic, 22 bioplastics MAGAZINE [03/19] Vol. 14

Toys Figure 1. From left to right: BIOROT, FLEXIROT, ROTELEC and NATURBIOFITOPLAG demonstrators of the mentioned biobased projects. it is most certainly that of wood. Nevertheless, not just any wood will be accepted. Nowadays, society is highly informed, so parents will look for toys made with wood from forests with an FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification — the well-known seal that guarantees the correct management of forest resources. There are other interesting options, such as cardboard. Toys made of recycled cardboard are readily perceived as being eco, as society is generally aware of this material and understands how it can be given a second use. Regarding cork, the use of this material is seen in several toy categories — not just in building blocks to stack, but in more technically complex proposals, such as building bricks, construction games, board games, vehicles, ride-ons and sensory toys for toddlers. For years now, bamboo has been used to manufacture sustainable toys. Companies such as Hape or Janod introduced it to offer a distinctive solution for new products. Organic fabric, especially organic cotton, is the most widely known eco-friendly fabric. At present, its use has extended beyond children’s clothes and textiles and it is now used in childcare products — one example is the Kikadu play gym. It is even possible to find it in products that are not in actual contact with children, such as children’s mobiles. This shows that organic fabrics are not only valued for being good for humans, but for being good for the planet too. Furthermore, toys made from natural rubber have been well received by parents — those with children aged up to 3 years have the greatest number of products available, a wide range of articles — including bath toys, rattles, teethers, and sensory toys — have been designed for this target. The reason behind it being well received by parents is partly motivated by the unified communication strategy (conducted by the companies that use it) of its origin and its environmental benefits. Among all these possibilities, there are also interesting opportunities for the plastic toy industry. Nowadays, the bioplastics industry is becoming more present in the children’s sector, from toys to childcare products. Making products with recycled plastic is one of the options which prove the potential of a new era of plastics. One example is the Ocean Bound Plastic Tide Pool Set by Green toys, which is made with recycled plastic that has been collected from global communities that lack waste-collection infrastructure. Another is the Bugaboo stroller brand, which uses recycled PET plastic to manufacture the fabrics of the Bugaboo Fox. Another alternative is biocomposite plastics, and it is possible to find toys made from a combination of natural fibres, or wood flour mixed with recycled, biodegradable, or biobased plastics, such as the Dump truck by Luke’s toy factory, which is made from recycled organic fibres (sawdust from furniture factories) and recycled plastic. Among these alternatives, the toy industry is beginning to opt for biobased plastics — plastics made from plant-based materials — which may be non-biodegradable, biodegradable, or compostable. Both well-established and new companies are introducing toys with these materials in their product portfolio — such as Dantoy, who have launched a brand-new “I’m green” line of bioplastic products made from at least 90% sugarcane. We also encounter brands such as eKoala or BiOBUDDi, who are building their entire brands — and their value proposition — on sustainable values. Research projects about bioplastics in the toy industry In this context, the Technological Institute for Children’s Products and Leisure (AIJU) in Spain has, over the past ten years, been studying the possibility of incorporating biodegradable materials in the manufacture of toys and other consumer products by means of injection (BIOTOYS Project, 2008), rotational moulding (BIOROT project, 2011, ROTELEC 2013 or FLEXIROT, 2018) or blowing (NATURBIOFITOPLAG) (Figure 1). In these projects, the traditional material is replaced by biobased material. Another noteworthy example was the LIFE MASTALMOND project (2011–2014) (Figure 2), in which the objective was the development of new masterbatches, or colour concentrates, based on biodegradable thermoplastics (PLA, PHB, starchbased polymer), containing a natural waste product — almond shells. This filler provides lightness while maintaining adequate hardness and rigidity levels according to industrial standards and is easily processed, which makes it especially interesting in the field of non-structural compound materials from an economic point of view, in addition to its low environmental impact. bioplastics MAGAZINE [03/19] Vol. 14 23

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