stuffed bear toy left on a trail

I can still remember the thrill of getting new toys on Christmas morning. We got new bikes, Easy Bake ovens, child-sized tables and chairs, tea sets, and lots of dolls. My sister and I kept our favorite toys in our room and around the house, and Mom stored the rest in the basement. Unwanted toys — toys that we had outgrown or broken — went in the trash.

Today, we are much more aware of our impact on the planet; I doubt we would feel right about just throwing old toys in the trash. So, what can we do with our children’s unwanted toys?

Perhaps we do some research before we buy toys. Can you buy from an eco-friendly brand? Does the company have a take-back or recycling program?

Crayola, for example, has a take-back program for their markers (although currently on hold due to the pandemic). And you can recycle crayons through the Crayon Initiative. Hasbro teamed up with TerraCycle to offer a recycling program for their toys and games. If you have an electronic toy that no longer works, you may be able to find a local electronics recycler to recycle the electronic components. TerraCycle also offers a for-purchase Toys Zero Waste Box for recycling any toys — including electronic toys.

When possible, reuse is even better than recycling. If the toys are still in good condition, passing them along to a younger child or offering them on Freecycle are good options. If they’re like-new or collectibles, selling them on Craig’s List or eBay is an option. Even items that aren’t in the best shape may attract a buyer; I saw a “Drowsy Doll” like I used to have on eBay — it sure brought back memories!

If you’re a crafter, you can find all sorts of upcycling projects for old toys on the web. There are ideas for making creative lamp bases, jewelry, wine-cork toppers, and bookends. So many crafty reuses to keep unwanted toys out of the landfills!

Feature image by Marina Shatskih from Pexels

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By Joanna Lacey

Joanna Lacey lives in New York and has collected thousands of ideas from the frugal habits of her mother and grandmother. You can find her on Facebook at Joanna the Green Maven.