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Issue 04/2016

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  • Bioplastics
  • Materials
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  • Biobased
  • Plastics
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  • Biodegradable
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  • Compostable

Toys Toymakers are the

Toys Toymakers are the vanguard of material innovation Th e r e may be no other product market with more consumer choices than toys, hundreds of model trains, trucks and cars, are bidding for consumer attention. So, perhaps it’s not surprising that toymakers are continually striving to differentiate their toys from similar products on the shelf. One strategy for distinguishing toys from those of competitors is through material selection. This has led toymakers to become early adopters of alternatives to petroleum-based plastics. Plastics are seemingly the ideal raw material for toys. They’re relatively inexpensive, easy to clean, durable and can be molded into just about anything a child’s imagination is capable of cooking up. While wood, textiles and metals can no doubt still be found in an average toy box, these materials have largely been supplanted by the now-ubiquitous plastic toy. Teethers, rattlers, stack toys, play food and other early childhood toys especially are all reliably made from plastics these days. But the mass production made feasible by the qualities above has created its own set of problems. As will surprise no one familiar with mass consumption and its green backlash, the products we make – plastics in this case – are prone to unintended consequences. Environmental degradation, exposure to harmful chemicals and the problem of waste plague all industries. But given the ubiquity of plastic toys in stores, classrooms and nurseries, the toy manufacturing industry faces the twin prospects of having a uniquely massive carbon footprint and the severest consequences for a vulnerable userbase if it neglects to make a change to more sustainable plastics. These concerns have prompted toymakers to seek new options for using more sustainable plastics over petroleum-based incumbents. The following are some of the most promising spins on an old material, both from a sustainability and performance perspective, that toymakers are exploring with some success: • Bio-based plastics like PLA, PHA and starch polymers made with renewable feedstocks instead of petroleum-based feedstock used in traditional plastics for toys that do not deplete our finite natural resources. • Biocomposite plastics combine natural fibers or wood flour with recycled, biodegradable or biobased plastics to create durable weather-resistant toys. • Biodegradable plastics like PLA, PHA or compostable soft plastic elastomer can be used to make toys that can be returned to nature when their useful life has ended. Why toymakers are on the lookout for more sustainable plastics A sort of symbolism plays into the exploration of alternative, sustainable plastic materials [1] for toys. When toymakers break from petroleum-based feedstock for the toys, and instead explore more environmentallyfriendly raw materials, they signify an interest in what sort of planet their users will grow up to inherit. Sustainable plastics, made with bio-based, biocomposite or biodegradable raw materials reflect a desire to preserve our planet’s natural resources and ensure their toys leave a legacy of innovation and care rather than waste and degradation. And, it turns out, what initially makes sense about toymakers exploring sustainable plastics makes even more when you think about what they’re subbing out in exchange. Many of the chemicals used to give 22 bioplastics MAGAZINE [04/16] Vol. 11

Toys By: Kevin Ireland Communications Manager Green Dot Cottonwood Falls, Kansas, USA plastic their flexibility – plasticizers as they are known – have been shown to be endocrine disruptors [2] and linked to the development of tumors, birth defects and developmental disorders. Both the United States [3] and the European Union have had a ban on the use of certain types of phthalates for years. Especially for young children, there is a fear that chewing on or heating the toys can exacerbate the harmful effects of exposure to chemicals like phthalates, bisphenol A (BPA) and heavy metals. Removing these chemicals, as well as others like PVC, should be a major thrust for toymakers looking to avoid exposing children to potentially harmful substances during the important period of early childhood development. Once toymakers begin exploring options for less toxic materials, they often also find an unexpected marriage between sustainability and performance. Starch-based plastics are ideal for scenting, allowing toymakers to create imaginative products, like Colorado toymaker, BeginAgain’s Scented Scoops ice cream play set. The toy is made with Green Dot’s Terratek ® Flex, compostable elastomeric bioplastic. This starch-based material allowed the toymaker to use fragrances to create scoops that smell good enough to eat (cf bM 05/12, 05/14, 02/15. Biocomposite materials, which utilize natural fibers such as wood pulp, flax, starch and hemp, can bring performance characteristics such as durability, natural feel and even buoyancy to the fore. Connecticut toymaker, Luke’s Toy Factory, chose to use Green Dot’s Terratek ® WC, a wood-plastic composite made from reclaimed wood fibers and recycled plastic. The material provided the aesthetics of wood with the processing capabilities of plastic. The wood-plastic composite material was more weather resistant than wood or plastic alone and the parts could be colored when molded, avoiding the risk of splinters and peeling paint (cf. bM 05/14) There are many examples of toymakers using bioplastics and biocomposites as seen in this publication. These innovative materials give toymakers a degree of flexibility and chance for creativity that’s lacking with traditional plastic formulations. These alternatives to traditional oil-based plastics help to make their toys stand out in a crowded market place by distinguishing their products as safer, more durable and more sustainable. [1] [2] [3] Education/Business-Guidance/Phthalates-Information/ [4] RETHINKING PLASTICS 29/30 November 2016 Steigenberger Hotel Berlin REGISTER NOW! For more information email: @EUBioplastics #eubpconf2016 bioplastics MAGAZINE [04/16] Vol. 11 23

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