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How To Fix Broken and Incomplete Plastic Toys

Updated: 2 days ago

What can you do with your children's broken and incomplete toys? The scene from Toy Story 3 whereby the unwanted toys are sent to the incinerator, had both adults and children on the edge of their seats, tears running down our faces. Yet this is exactly what happens to 28 million damaged toys that are thrown away each year in the UK alone, which then end up in landfills, incinerators and turned into climate changing C0₂ emissions or end up in the ocean. Over 400 million toys are sold by the UK toy industry each year, 90% of them plastic that has no where to go when they break or are incomplete, and are too complicated to recycle. British Heart Foundation research in 2019 found 1 in 3 parents (28%) admit to throwing away toys. In fact Plastic toy waste is inevitable when it's still being mass produced, and often made cheaply. Even if plastic toys are passed on via charity shops, car boot sales and swap schemes, toys of poor quality, designed for a short life span, break quickly.

Woody from Toy Story 3

So what can you do with broken and incomplete toys? Before you donate or throw away the toys you no longer want, first look to see if the broken and incomplete toys can be fixed or repurposed.

Replacement Parts

Many brands now offer free replacement parts for jigsaws, games and play sets. Some will have links on their websites specifically for this so it is worth checking, otherwise contact their customer service. It is always worth contacting them, as many offer this as a free service as part of their attempt to be greener! Even if they are a company from outside the UK, many will have UK suppliers who keep spare parts available in their UK warehouses.

Missing pieces can also be sourced from local parenting groups and forums. On Facebook there are also missing piece groups:

Missing Toy Parts

Missing Toy Parts and More

Repurpose broken and incomplete toys.

Use broken and incomplete sets to make treasure trays, tinker trays or mandala sets. You do not need a special 'tray' for these - an egg tray would suffice! Loose parts are great for counting, colour sorting, categorising and sensory play.

Treasure Tray: Treasure baskets and trays allow children to explore different textures and sensory items.

Tinker Tray: Contains a selection of random unrelated items that can be used as part of open-ended loose part play. They provide a child with interesting objects and pieces they can 'tinker' with.

Mandala loose play: Where pieces can be used like art on the floor or table to make patterns, symmetry and geometric shapes.

Maybe you have pieces that can be repurposed into another toy, just like I did when I made this animal house for my son. I used as many items as I could that I already had. You can see how I did this here.

Can you repurpose items into funky art, coat hangers, fridge magnets, pretty picture frames - let your imagination create a funky unique home! If your imagination or time doesn't allow for that, many artists work exclusively with donated waste materials and love broken toys! Ask local artists, galleries, universities and art studios if they can make use of any items.

I love the art by Brighton Beach litter artist @The_plastic_coast.

Other ways to repurpose:

Party Bags. Whether it is Lego, Playmobil, Duplo, cars or loose parts, can you use them for party bags? For my son's birthday earlier this year, I melted down all the broken wax crayons we had into a silicone mould, to make rainbow colouring dinos for each party bag.

Halloween is another opportunity to give away random odd items you have accumulated that you don't need instead of sweets. Kids toys and plastic-tat at home from party bags and fast-food chains you no longer want, stickers, pens, pencils, rubbers, marbles, bouncy balls, spinning tops, figures from play sets - anything you have at home you want to clear out!

Tat Bags. I like to create 'tat bags' with the plastic tat we have been given or accumulated, using all our leftover stickers, leftover colouring and puzzle book pages, random plastic toys and even unused magazine pages. We take our tat bags to restaurants and pubs, car and train journeys and anywhere where the kids need to be a bit quiet and stay seated! It's amazing how these abandoned and unused pages that are untouched at home, become the most exciting thing to be had in a different setting!

Lego Brickit App. Build new things from old Lego bricks and sets. This is a great way to reuse the Lego you have to create new sets, rather than buy more, and is a way you can create new sets to giveaway as party gifts.

The Toy Project in London repurposes toys for children in the UK, as well as throughout India, Africa, and the Caribbean. They collect toys and create new sets from all the pieces, like these Playmobil figures below. They collect Playmobil figures, Duplo figures, animals, dinosaurs, wind-up toys, wooden pop-up toys, finger puppets, cars, trains and toys to fit a party theme such as aquatic animals or a jungle theme. You can either use them as a great source of inspiration or donate your loose items.

3D print new parts. Do you know someone with a 3D printer? Great. 3D printing technology manufacturer Dagoma (USA) has established Toy Rescue, providing spare parts for toys that are broken. Dagoma has created a library of 3D-printable files of commonly lost or broken parts from the most popular toys of the last 40 years. It includes dolls arms, dinosaur tails, car wheels, and countless other parts that can be printed with a filament appropriate for the original toy. Files can also be requested for parts that aren’t currently available in the library. So if you know someone with a 3D printer, this is a great way to repair a toy so it will be loved again!

So remember, before you throw in the bin, see if you can repair, replace, fix or repurpose the toys you have.

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