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issue 04/2021

  • Text
  • Toys
  • Toy
  • Carbon
  • Renewable
  • Biobased
  • Sustainable
  • Products
  • Packaging
  • Plastics
  • Materials
  • Bioplastics
Highlights: Toys Thermoforming Basics: Bio-Polypropylene

Toys Sustainability in

Toys Sustainability in the toy industry Sustainability is a big challenge in the toy industry. Since the launch of the very first plastic product to the market, the relationship between plastics and humans has been complex, yet until now it has always been one that has been mutually beneficial. Today, the societal benefits of plastic remain undeniable, but plastics are also recognised as playing a central role in the presentday throw-away society. The result is a waste crisis that is becoming a significant problem for health and the natural environment [1]. One of the organisations calling for the creation of circular economy models in the toy industry is the Ellen MacArthur Foundation [2]. Toys are prime examples of items that are designed to “spark joy” (Marie Kondo first rule: “Does this spark joy? If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it”). However, toys often end up as waste when the child’s play interests change. In 2019, the value of the global toy market exceeded USD 90 billion. Considering that up to 80 % of all toys end up in landfills, incinerators, or the ocean, the consequent loss of value when toys are thrown away is huge. In France alone, more than 40 million toys end up as waste each year, and in the UK, almost a third of all parents have admitted to throwing away toys that are still in good working condition because their children have finished playing with them. To address this issue, innovative strategies are needed to enhance the sustainability of children’s toys. Possible solutions include, for example, toy reuse & sharing, toy subscription channels, using 3D printing to repair broken toys, adoption of eco-design methods or exploring the use of new biobased materials. The latter option is one that fits well with the business model that prevails in the toy world, where new toys are developed and produced every year in line with parental requirements, attitudes, and new market trends. Can a toy produced from plastic be sustainable? In the toy industry, one of the most commonly used raw materials is plastic, mainly due to the freedom of shape and form it offers, as well as its lightweight, mouldability and wide range of properties, among others. Furthermore, plastics can be fully coloured to be attractive to children. Different sorts of plastic can be used: rigid materials for toys that require toughness and flexible ones for toys that are often dropped or thrown during use, thus preventing these from becoming a hazard for the children playing with them. In short, plastic is a versatile material, able to meet a host of different toy requirements, including important technical and safety specifications. Consumers and the general public, however, generally fail to recognise these advantages. This negative public perception of plastics creates an evident inconsistency, which needs to be resolved. Different options are available to make toys more sustainable. These range from (i) the use of renewable energy sources, (ii) eco-toy design, (iii) and promoting the recycling of plastic toys at the end of life, to the use of recycled materials to manufacture new toys and (iv) the use of renewable raw materials, which would reduce the use of fossil-fuel-based plastics and additives. All these solutions might be combined in pursuit of the implementation of more circular systems. In a circular system, waste has value and is used as new feedstock for the manufacture of new materials for new end products, reducing the consumption of virgin resources as well as the amount of generated waste. Circularity includes investing in ecodesign, where toy manufacturers create toys with the end of the life in mind, instead of just looking at the manufacturing process and final use. This means considering such factors as mono-material design where possible, and where not, designing for easy disassembly to facilitate recycling, in line with what today’s consumers want. From the product concept to development & production – exploring the recycled plastics, biobased materials, energy resources – through to marketing and the communication around the product: sustainability must be part of the strategy at every stage, to promote the transition to circular plastics systems. Innovations in bioplastics Innovation in biopolymers, in collaboration with toy companies, is one of AIJU’s four flagship research lines (biopolymers & manufacturing, additive manufacturing, IoT smart games, and consumer trends). During the past 5 years, AIJU has worked in close collaboration with 17 toy and consumer goods manufacturers on the development and incorporation of a wider range of more sustainable polymer materials. Additionally, AIJU has created a Guide for the Use of Biomaterials in single-use and consumer products (Fig. 1) [3] to help manufacturers to understand the different concepts and requirements of the bioplastics industry. Figure 1: AIJU’s guide in biomaterials Index AIJU’s experience with biopolymers is summarized in Figure 2. The projects illustrate the various sustainable solutions using biopolymers that the company has explored, including recyclability, bio-additives for conventional or 14 bioplastics MAGAZINE [04/21] Vol. 16

7-8 Speaker at Sep 2021 By: María Jordá, Asunción Martínez, Maria Costa Technological Institute for Toy Industry and Leisure (AIJU) Ibi, Spain Toys traditional plastics, fillers, or functional properties, and the implementation of each in toy products that were studied and promoted. All research projects were targeted at the current industrial processes applied in the toy industry: extrusion, injection, extrusion blow moulding, or rotomoulding. Other new technologies, such as additive manufacturing, have also been tested, to enable their use in customized or personalized toys. The main objective of these projects was to arrive at an improvement in both mechanical and aesthetic properties, to evaluate the use of bio-additives derived from controlled industrial waste from agriculture, the improvement of toy properties (thermal, mechanical, flame retardant, UV resistance, etc.) or to add new features, such as antimicrobial properties. Figure 2: Significant AIJUs research projects in bio-polymeric materials AIJU established the biomaterials research line in 2008, when the Biotoys project started. In this project, biodegradable and biobased biopolymers were tested. The key objective was the evaluation of the use of biopolymers for extrusion and injection technologies within the toy industry. For this reason, mechanical and chemical properties were evaluated in the light of the technical requirements of the toys. This included all safety requirements for toys sold in the European Union, as specified in European standard EN71. The main result was the definition of the requirements for biopolymers to be used in the toy industry. The BioRot, Rotobiomat, and Rotelec projects studied the addition of natural fibres such as almond shells in the rotational moulding process. As the projects progressed, the focus shifted from using conventional polymer matrices to different biopolymers. The main innovation here was the incorporation of natural fibres, creating a biobased compound, reducing the amount of polymer used and generating a new aesthetic aspect. The materials were tested in Falca Toys and by Ebrim Rotomoulding, a manufacturer of large-sized products. The FLEXIROT project carried out within the context of this research line focused on the doll industry. The project sought to replace conventional petroleum-based plasticizers with other substances of natural origin such as epoxidised vegetable oils to obtain, in this case, flexible materials for use in soft parts of dolls, such as heads and arms. A success story was the development of new biobased solutions for the cartridge sector. The objective was to develop biodegradable polyvinyl alcohol (PVOH) materials that could be used by the company to produce its injection-moulded cartridge wads, to replace the current conventional polymers. PVOH is water-soluble, which was a key characteristic regarding the end of life of the product. The main impact of the project is that the company has successfully incorporated these materials into their product range in the market. Other research related to additives and masterbatches. The Naturmaster and Mastalmond projects were carried out in partnership with a masterbatch producer (IQAP), a toy manufacturer (INJUSA), and a furniture company (Pérez Cerdá). The main result obtained was the development at industrial scale of a new range of masterbatches, in which almond shell was incorporated as a natural filler. The main properties of these new masterbatches were their innovative aesthetic properties with eye-catching results and mechanical properties that were similar to conventional fillers, while offering an enhanced sustainability option for the production of consumer products. The Naturfitoplag project saw AIJU collaborate with a company seeking to develop biodegradable films with biocide properties, for use in the agricultural sector. Calcium carbonate is one of the most commonly used fillers in the plastic industry. The Ecoinnovation Ecoshell project investigated the possibility of using industrial residue from the agri-food sector to promote a more circular approach to this waste. The project introduced calcium bioplastics MAGAZINE [04/21] Vol. 16 15

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