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This Earth Day Take A Plastic Detox With Your Kids

As soon as you have children, it's like a plastic deluge follows each baby born, which is ironic, when it is our children that will directly suffer the consequences and challenges of climate change, waste and pollution, from the very items we are buying them.

Children's toys are the most plastic intensive industry globally (UN 2014 Report) but we ignore that they are part of the issues facing our destruction and our children's peril, with over 400 million plastic toys sold in the UK alone.

If we care about the planet, we need to reduce our purchase of plastic toys and start recognising them for what they are; as one of the largest guzzlers of oil and one of the biggest contributors of plastic waste - 36.5 million annually thrown away in the UK to end up in landfill or incinerated, flushed down the toilet or left littered around our coastline. That brand new Lego set you just purchased, will take over 1300 years to breakdown - yes it will last for generations, so why are we buying new, not secondhand?

So this EARTH DAY I am asking parents to take the #plasticdetox challenge with their kids in the following 8 ways to reduce buying new plastic in their lives. How many times will you find yourself saying no, in just a week? Set boundaries with your children about what you will and will not buy them and encourage them to do the same with their pocket money. Explain why it is important and how you want to take action. Only through us caring, will they care - however climate anxiety is rising in children in the UK, with 70% worried about the world they will inherit, Save the Children found in a survey of children (2022), so maybe through a #plasticdetox they will feel more empowered about how we can all make a difference.

My son makes these at after-school club. Little plastic beads that get ironed, but break by the time we are home. For 10 minutes of fun, using something that will last over 1000 years. This is plastic crafts I say no too, and would never buy.

Can you SAY NO! to the following...

  1. Say NO to cheap flimsy and single use plastic toys that last less than a day. How long has a bubble wand lasted in your house before being discarded and thrown?

  2. Say NO to fluffy polyester toys, baby comforters, blankets and pillows. Your child will be breathing in their plastic fibres as they release in the air or sucking on plastic and digesting it.

  3. Say NO to beach items you will have to abandon and leave behind on holiday. If it cannot come home or won't be used again, just don't buy it!

  4. Say NO to plastic crafts, glitter and vinyl stickers and NO to petroleum based crayons. Not even the paper it's all been stuck too, can be recycled afterwards.

  5. Say NO to novelty and fad toys they lose interest in quickly. This can also be applied to sweets in novelty packaging that often serves no purpose and is immediately binned! Avoid commercially marketed character toys where the phase of interest and single purpose of the toy will quickly be outgrown.

  6. Say NO to seasonal plastic tat, decor and new polyester costumes that will be used once. Whether it's halloween or Easter, World Book Day or Christmas. 2 in 5 children's costumes are only worn once before being thrown into landfill, that's 2,000 tonnes of plastic waste – equivalent to 83 million bottles.

  7. Say NO to single use plastic party supplies, balloons and decor for children's parties. Latex balloons are single use and not biodegradable. Helium balloons are plastic and helium itself is a rare natural resource. Helium is widely used as a coolant, and while this doesn’t sound that important, as a coolant, it can be found in MRI Scanners, whilst a mix of 80% helium and 20% oxygen provides deep sea divers with the artificial atmosphere that keeps them alive under the waves. Instead of balloons consider paper garlands, shredded paper, fabric bunting, streamers, bubbles or eco-friendly confetti. Or make your own creative DIY banners!

  8. Say NO to bath and water play toys that have holes and will go mouldy, and say NO to water toys that cannot be cleaned properly.

Take the #plasticdetox challenge. Can you complete our #plasticdetox bingo by saying NO?

SAY YES! to the following...

Ten other ways to make swaps and refuse throwaway single-use plastic toys, general tat and toys with limited life-spans and play-value aimed at children:

  1. Buy sustainably made alternatives whenever possible.

  2. Buy pre-loved high quality plastic-toy brands that will last a childhood or longer.

  3. Avoid commercially marketed character toys where the phase of interest and single purpose of the toy will quickly be outgrown.

  4. Buy open ended toys where you can add pieces or additional sets to it over time. In this way it can be adapted and changed with the child's interests and development.

  5. Ask parents to give £5 instead of a present for your child's birthday party. If 20 parents gave £5 that would be £100 to buy something really special that your child wants and it takes the stress away from attending parents for find a suitable gift.

  6. Buy experiences rather than things, from days out to annual tickets for organisations like the National Trust.

  7. Find a passion for sewing and making your own! From felt play bases to scrap fabric party bunting to crochet play figures.

  8. Take out a monthly book, magazine or activity subscription that doesn't include plastic toys. There are lots of plastic-free options available.

  9. When it comes to birthdays and Christmas, make a present list for family and friends to use and let them know that you want to avoid plastic toys and crafts. Shop independent online and offline - they often have better ethical and environmental practices.

  10. If you need a costume, accessories or decor for a celebration, ask friends or via your child's school or class, if there is a costume swap scheme or anyone can lend you what you need. Most are happy to see these things be reused.

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