This Eid when picking out toys for your children, your nephews, nieces or grandkids ask yourself one question “Will this toy outlive us all?”
The truth is most toys made by the big brands these days are made mostly from durable plastics that are likely to remain intact long after we, and our great grandchildren, have decomposed into the ground. Some toys will decompose in about a thousand years and others much longer.
A few months ago in December, Mattel, the manufacturer of Barbie products and a range of other well known brands, “announced its goal to achieve 100% recycled, recyclable or bio-based plastics materials in both its products and packaging by 2030” (1). Currently 58 million barbie dolls continue to be sold each year, with over 90% eventually ending up in landfill.
With such a devastating impact on the environment it’s disappointing that there isn’t currently a well marketed buy back system that encourages people to return plastic toys to be recycled and reused and not left to stay perfectly intact in landfill for generations. Children’s toys currently form a large and growing global market worth $90.4bn in 2018 (2).
Most standard recycling plants in Australia won’t accept plastic toys. “Because toys are made from many different materials – plastics, metal, glass, computer components, and more – they are incredibly difficult to recycle and in many cases are not accepted by recycling facilities.” (3)
There are certainly many lessons we’ve learnt as a global community from this COVID-19 pandemic. One of these lessons is that, given certain conditions are met, sustainable living can happen almost over night on a global scale. All the planes can suddenly be grounded, the ocean liners can be docked and the smog and pollution can clear away as earth’s natural systems begin to repair humanities prolonged and persistent destruction and abuse of its resources.
So is the answer simply to shift from buying plastic toys to cutting down more trees to produce more “eco-friendly” biodegradable wooden toys? Certainly not. Apart from adopting more sustainable, ‘earth-friendly’ lifestyle changes, the key challenge for humanity in the post-COVID-19 world is simply to consume less.
Buy less. Eat less. Spend less. Reconsider your impact and challenge the consumerist narrative. Less is more.
Let’s not forget that Allah tells humanity in Surah Baqarah in the noble Quran that he has entrusted all humans as the custodians of the Earth, as successors, the khala’ifa. It is incumbent upon us to care for our environment and the planet which has been entrusted to us.
And [mention, O Muhammad], when your Lord said to the angels, “Indeed, I will make upon the earth a successive authority (Khalifah).”