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Understanding plastic and plastic toys


Milk bottles as toysA huge part of the journey to launch Happy Planet Toys has been learning about plastic, plastic toys and how to work with recycled plastic.

Most toys are made from ABS plastic, which stands for Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (try saying that 3 times quickly!). It’s good because it’s highly durable, cheap, easy to mould and can actually be recycled (as long as there’s no additional parts in the product other than the plastic). The bad? It can’t be upcycled, so when it’s recycled, it can only be used for less valuable items (things like roads or outdoor furniture). And some toys are made from blended plastics, so a blend of ABS and any other plastics, so they're much more difficult to recycle, and we also don't know what kinds of chemicals and toxins have been used in the manufacturing process. If there’s no marking on the toys, or on the packaging to advise what kind of plastic is used, it’s very hard to know.

So what are our toys made from? They’re made from 100% recycled milk bottles, which is also known as HDPE plastic. The milk bottle plastic we use is classified as food grade, so we know it’s safe for children putting in their mouths, or in water. It’s also very easily recyclable, and can be upcycled into higher value items, like our toys.

However… the tricky thing with milk bottle plastic, is that it’s softer than ABS plastic. So when we started the process to design our toys, we had to take the chemical properties of our plastic into consideration, and how it would behave when it was moulded. This required a huge amount of research, speaking to experts, as well as a LOT of trial and error. We had to develop a specific manufacturing process, which is why it took us so long from the initial concept to the final product. And as you can see, all that work was worth it as we managed to create a highly durable, high quality product from it.