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issue 05/2021

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Highlights: Fibres, Textiles, Nonwovens Biocomposites Basics: CO2-based plastics

Conference Review By:

Conference Review By: Harald Kaeb, narocon InnovationConsulting Berlin, Germany and Alex Thielen Well attended: More than one hundred professionals informed themselves online and on-site Challenging: The hybrid format requires high technical efforts Speakers had to consider video-transmission, almost like in a TV studio Second bio!TOY Toy industry seeks information and sustainable plastics Over one hundred international participants attended the second edition of the bio!TOY conference, organised by bioplastics MAGAZINE and innovation consultancy Dr Käb, in Nuremberg (Germany) on the 7 th and 8 th of September. This meeting of toy manufacturers with plastics companies demonstrated the industries’ high interest in sustainable production and circular economy. Both the presentations and resulting discussions point to a growing dynamic in the competition for biobased and highquality recycled plastics. Against the backdrop of increasingly threatening climate change and substantial criticism of the use of plastics, the search for more sustainable solutions has now fully arrived in the toy industry. The list of participants at the conference reads like a Who’s Who of the industry. On the podium, the top 3 in the industry, Lego, Hasbro, and Mattel, explained what goals they are pursuing and how they are implementing them step by step. While smaller players like Viking Toys, Dantoy, and eKoala talked about the challenges and opportunities they face. At the top of the toy industry’s wish list for more sustainable toy design in the future are recyclability and the use of renewable raw materials as well as recycled plastics. At the conference, raw material manufacturers were able to explain the supply options and effects on durability and recyclability directly to their potential customers. The hybrid format of the conference – about two-thirds on-site, one-third online – was a technically challenging innovation. Despite the pandemic and the avoidance of emission-intensive air traffic, proximity and intensive discussion were possible after a long period of abstinence. The conference was supported by the German Toy Industry Association DVSI and Spielwarenmesse Nürnberg. In their greetings, both industry platforms pointed out the growing importance of the presented and discussed solutions, as well as their own activities. It is still a long way to complete climate neutrality and a comprehensive circular economy, said the German chemical industry association in a presentation, but important steps are now possible for every company. The first step is information, here the direct and open exchange definitely helps and motivates, the organisers explained. The feedback of the participants was unanimously positive and the joy about real face-to-face exchanges was palpable. The next bio!TOY conference, in March 2023, will without a doubt deliver news and updates on the progress that is about to be made. 8 bioplastics MAGAZINE [05/21] Vol. 16

Recap and highlights Highlights from and around the bio!TOY After a long time without real face-to-face conferences, we thought it worthwhile to give some highlights of the bio!TOY, talking about everything would go way beyond the scope of a single article so we had to choose some of the many topics addressed. No more rubbish toys – kids don’t want them Before the bio!TOY our very own Editor-in-Chief, Michael Thielen, interviewed 11-year-old environmental activist from Wales, Skye Neville, about her campaign Ban plastic toys on comics on change.org and her activism against “crappy useless toys” that often accompany magazines aimed at children. Skye said that many of these toys are simply trash that nobody really needs or asked for. Her petition was noticed by local newspapers whose stories were seen by bigger newspapers and soon she got contacted by the BBC for an interview. This in turn gained her the attention of the Supermarket chain Waitrose (Bracknell, UK), that shortly after agreed not to stock plastic-wrapped magazines anymore. “And then everything went a bit mad – I was on live radio, live TV, and in so many magazines like the National Geographic Kids magazine. Now I’m involved with many different organisations to battle plastics pollution and to inspire other kids to get active,” Skye said to bioplastics MAGAZINE. When asked what she wanted the toy industry as a whole to do Skye said this: “Stop making cheap rubbish toys that nobody needs, make toys out of bioplastic or recycled plastic. Recycling might not be the solution now as a lot of recyclable plastic is currently not recycled. (…) Stop making pointless plastic packaging – get creative.” Skye hopes that politicians will also take action now with bans or restrictions for fossil-based plastics, especially single-use plastics and her personal topic, “rubbish toys” that came with comics, “climate change is affecting us now, we need to take action right now!” The industry seems to share many of her concerns as big players like Hasbro and Mattel have started their own toy recycling programs to increase recycling rates in their own sector. Hasbro has also recently started to change their toy packaging to decrease plastic use wherever possible. The full interview is on YouTube and a link can be found at the end of the article. Biodegradable vs recycling There were two instances during Q&A sessions where the option of biodegradability for toys was raised and whether or not this makes sense and the two examples perfectly encapsulate what biodegradation as an end-of-life option is all about. The two applications were Lego bricks and nerf darts. When asked why Lego bricks aren’t made biodegradable René Mikkelsen from Lego replied that the main reason for making Lego from durable material is safety, biodegradation would lead to an uncontrolled breakdown of the material which would interfere with these safety standards, the other reason was that Lego bricks are a generational toy in the sense that children often play with the bricks of their older siblings, cousins, or even parents. A point René did not raise but is worth mentioning is that Lego stopped being just for children long ago with very large elaborate sets aimed at adults (e.g., the Star Wars Millennium Falcon) where the longevity of the product is highly important. The topic of biodegradability came up again after the presentation of Hasbro (that talked about Nerf darts, among other things) – one of the attendees, a father of three sons mentioned his kids go through “tonnes of rounds” and a bag (of darts) tends to “disappear” within a week, he asked whether or not a biodegradable material would be an option here. In this case, biodegradability would make a lot of sense as unrecovered nerf darts would disappear over time. Ben Kuchler, Director of Product and Packaging Sustainability at Hasbro, said that nerf darts is one of the few products where they would consider biodegradable material, however, he also said that biodegradability can be sort of a double-edged sword as biodegradable nerf darts might lead to more littering. Here we face again a challenge of customer behaviour. Arguably, here biodegradability could be an added value – if children are told that unrecovered nerf darts break down after some time, they might be more motivated to reclaim the ammunition for their toy, before it’s too late – that however is more a question of how the biodegradability is communicated, advertised and, most importantly, also a question of environmentally conscious parenting. From concerned mother to activist Another highlight of this year’s bio!TOY was without a doubt the presentation of Sharon Keilthy, Founder and CEO of Jiminy Eco Toys. Sharon described how she evolved from a concerned parent, who simply wanted locally produced petro-plastic free toys for her daughter, but found herself leaving toy stores empty-handed – she couldn’t find any. Spurred by the IPCC Report on Climate Change, she decided to be part of the change she wanted to see - and to work on making toys sustainable. She set up a plasticfree toy store in her hometown of Dublin, Ireland – which now retails and wholesales about 500 sustainable toys – including over 50 made from bioplastic. As her toy store is also a distributor for smaller shops, she quickly realized how little the average person seemed to know about Conference Review bioplastics MAGAZINE [05/21] Vol. 16 9

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