Plastic Toys: A Looming Environmental Crisis

December 5, 2022 in environment, recycling

Article summary and Key takeaways: Plastic toys have a significant environmental impact, contributing to plastic waste and pollution. They take hundreds of years to decompose and often contain harmful chemicals. However, there are eco-friendly alternatives made from sustainable materials like wood and natural fibers. The debate over banning plastic toys is ongoing, with arguments for and against. Plastic toys release harmful chemicals during decomposition, and avoiding them can help protect human health and conserve natural resources. Taking action to choose eco-friendly toys and encourage sustainable manufacturing is crucial for a more responsible toy industry and a healthier planet.

Are Plastic Toys Bad for the Environment?

Plastic toys have long been a favorite among children and adults alike. They provide hours of entertainment and play an integral role in child development. However, as our understanding of the environmental impact of plastic continues to grow, it is crucial to address the issue of plastic toys and their contribution to environmental degradation.

Current Environmental Impact of Plastic Toys

Recent studies and research have shed light on the alarming environmental impact of plastic toys. Plastic toy waste generation has reached alarming levels, with millions of tons being produced each year. The implications of this waste are far-reaching and affect both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

Statistics indicate that plastic toy waste accounts for a significant portion of overall plastic waste. In the United States alone, it is estimated that around 40% of plastic toys are only used for a short period before being discarded. This wasteful consumption pattern contributes to the mounting plastic waste crisis.

One particularly concerning aspect of plastic toy waste is its contribution to ocean pollution. Due to their lightweight nature, plastic toys are easily carried away by wind and water currents, ending up in rivers and eventually making their way to the ocean. Once in the marine environment, these toys pose a threat to marine life through ingestion and entanglement.

Environmental Issues Associated with Plastic Toys

Plastic toy waste poses several environmental problems. Firstly, plastic toys take hundreds of years to decompose. This means that the toys that are discarded today will remain in landfills, polluting the soil and water, for generations to come.

Furthermore, the production of plastic toys contributes to various environmental issues. Plastics are derived from fossil fuels, such as petroleum, whose extraction and processing have significant environmental consequences, including air and water pollution and habitat destruction.

Additionally, many plastic toys contain harmful chemicals, such as phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA), which have been linked to adverse health effects in humans. These chemicals can leach out of the toys and contaminate the environment, posing risks to both wildlife and humans.

Alternatives to Plastic Toys

Thankfully, there are eco-friendly alternatives to plastic toys that can help reduce the environmental impact. Eco-friendly toy options include those made from sustainable materials such as wood, bamboo, and natural fibers. These materials are biodegradable, renewable, and often free from harmful chemicals.

Using environmentally friendly toys brings a range of benefits. Firstly, they have a lower carbon footprint compared to plastic toys, as their production involves fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, eco-friendly toys often have a longer lifespan, reducing the need for frequent replacements and further waste generation.

Several eco-friendly toy options are readily available in the market. Wooden building blocks, organic cotton stuffed animals, and puzzles made from recycled materials are just a few examples. These toys not only provide a safe and fun play experience but also promote sustainability and environmental awareness from an early age.

Arguments for and against Banning Plastic Toys

The issue of whether to ban plastic toys altogether is a controversial one, with arguments on both sides of the debate.

Supporters of a ban argue that the environmental impact of plastic toys is too significant to ignore. They highlight the damage caused by plastic waste, both in terms of pollution and resource depletion. They believe that a ban would force the industry to find more sustainable alternatives, reducing the overall environmental impact.

On the other hand, opponents of a ban argue that plastic toys provide essential benefits, such as affordability and durability. They argue that banning plastic toys could limit access to toys for children from low-income families and that alternatives may not be as long-lasting or cost-effective.

It is important to consider the potential consequences and challenges of a ban on plastic toys. The transition to alternative materials would require significant investment and changes in manufacturing processes. Furthermore, societal attitudes and consumer behavior would need to shift to prioritize eco-friendly options.

Decomposition Timeline of Plastic Toys

Plastic toys have a considerable decomposition timeline, contributing to their long-lasting environmental effects. Unlike organic materials, plastics do not biodegrade but rather break down into smaller pieces known as microplastics. These microplastics persist in the environment indefinitely and can spread far and wide.

The exact time it takes for plastic toys to decompose varies depending on several factors, such as the type of plastic used and the surrounding environmental conditions. However, estimations suggest that it can take anywhere from 100 to 1000 years for plastic toys to fully decompose.

During this decomposition process, plastic toys release harmful chemicals into the environment, further exacerbating the already significant environmental impact of their production and disposal.

Why Avoid Plastic Toys

There are several compelling reasons to avoid plastic toys and opt for more sustainable alternatives. Firstly, the potential health risks associated with plastic toys cannot be ignored. Chemicals such as phthalates and BPA have been linked to developmental and reproductive issues in humans, making them a significant concern, especially for young children.

Furthermore, the production of plastic toys contributes to the depletion of natural resources. As mentioned earlier, plastics are derived from fossil fuels, a non-renewable resource. The extraction and processing of these materials have significant environmental consequences, including habitat destruction and climate change.

Avoiding plastic toys also sends a message to manufacturers and industries that there is a demand for more sustainable options. By choosing eco-friendly toys, individuals can contribute to a shift towards a more sustainable and responsible toy industry.


Plastic toys have become an integral part of our society, but their environmental impact cannot be understated. The excessive waste generation, long decomposition timeline, and harmful chemicals associated with plastic toys highlight the urgent need for change.

It is essential for individuals and industries to take action to address the issue. By opting for eco-friendly toy alternatives, we can reduce plastic waste, promote sustainability, and protect the environment. Manufacturers should also prioritize the development and production of sustainable toys, ensuring they are safe for both children and the planet.

The future of plastic toys and the environment depends on the choices we make today. Let us strive for a future where children can play safely and responsibly, without compromising the health of our planet.

Question: Why avoid plastic toys?
Answer: Plastic toys can be harmful to the environment and human health due to their production, disposal, and potential for containing toxic chemicals.

Question: Are 90% of toys made of plastic?
Answer: No, not all toys are made of plastic. However, a significant portion of toys, estimated to be around 90%, are made of plastic.

Question: Why are toys bad for the environment?
Answer: Toys contribute to environmental degradation through their production, use of non-renewable resources, generation of waste, and potential for pollution when disposed of improperly.

Question: What are the cons of plastic toys?
Answer: The cons of plastic toys include their contribution to plastic pollution, potential health risks due to toxic chemicals, non-biodegradability, and dependence on fossil fuels for production.


About the author 

Jason Farland