All of the Big Three toymakers—Mattel, Hasbro, and Lego—have launched sustainability efforts in recent years to address a top concern of the key customers they have to keep happy: millennial and Gen Z parents. Lego, in October, 2019, rolled out a pilot program in the United States that made it easy for parents to get rid of old Lego bricks by donating them to school programs. The pilot was so successful that Lego last year expanded it to Canada.
Hasbro in August, 2019 pledged to stop using plastic packaging by the end of 2022, and Mattel in December, 2019 set a goal for itself of 100% recycled, recyclable, or bio-based plastics in all of its products and packaging by 2030. Mattel’s PlayBack initiative mirrors Lego’s Replay program by giving parents free shipping labels they can use to ship old toys back to Mattel. Currently only Barbie, Matchbox, and Mega brand toys are being accepted for recycling.
Unlike the Lego program, which cleans old Lego bricks and donates them to schools and other charities for kids, Mattel will sort the toys and process them for recycling. “For materials that cannot be repurposed as recycled content in new toys, Mattel PlayBack will either downcycle those materials into other plastic products or convert them from waste to energy,” Mattel said in announcing the program.
Pamela Gill-Alabaster, head of global sustainability at Mattel, said the company does not yet have a specific timeframe for when additional Mattel brands will be included in the PlayBack program. “The Mattel PlayBack program helps parents and caregivers ensure that valuable materials stay in play, and out of landfills,” Gill-Alabaster said. “It is one important step we’re taking to address the growing global waste challenge.”