September 22, 2019 infosol

The Plastic Toy Industry

The Tale of How We Wrote Off the Future of Our Children

There are days that each of us has a moment of epiphany, where the     a-ha becomes back coir of a curious and long queue of unforgiving rush and stampede in the corridors of mind.

When the reality hits us in our forehead, shakes and reverberates our ribcage and gives us goose bumps about what we have been blind to.

I had one of these profound moments this summer. My six-year-old son asked me, wordlessly by simply smiling and accelerating his pace simply to force me to follow him to one toy store after the other from the ELC the Early Learning Center to Hamley’s and a few other outlets.

Store after store, my sense of bewilderment only grew, my stomach twisting. At one point there was a dash of deafness to hear his voice and the echo of his sheer excitement for buying another toy that he would be bored with within 2-3 weeks max.

While pinching myself I sat down and tried to explain to the young man that he has a room full of different, similar and for that matter other toys that he may have all but forgotten about.

The silence kicked in and his nodding gathered pace. I won the challenge this time, by convincing him a day-out at the beach and followed by a visit to the painting class that he enjoys attending. Where he draws his Sea Monsters, the cutest and most attractive monsters I have seen in my entire life.

Well now I want to talk about another Monster, which has grabbed the headlines of late.

The monster that has been polluting our seas, oceans, rivers and jungles and forests, from landfills to every corner of a modern society one can find the footprints of this Monster.

Total global toy industry is worth USD 89bn and the share of United States market is a strong and staggeringly with a dangerous 25% market share of the total industry sales, standing at USD 20.7bn.

The total global toy industry is equal to the GDP of Kenya or 2 times bigger than the GDP of Tunisia.

It is almost impossible to step in a toy store and not to be overwhelmed by the amount, weight and vulgar presence of plastics.

Now embed in each of those toys at least 2 or sometimes 6 AA batteries and then you need another comprehensive analysis of the integrated damage that the toy industry has on environment.

According to some estimates a good 50% of these batteries could end up in environment and not be recycled properly. After all which mum with two infants would make that extra trip to a designated outlet or facility to dispose the batteries in a responsible manner.

The very toys we buy for these future heirs of planet earth, are made in various forms, shape or fashion as if not seasonal, monthly or in most cases a weekly stepping stone to boredom before new toy is launched, and before our children are taken over by the three avalanches of:

  1. Advertising machine be it above the line, or social media
  2. The peer pressure of another friend, cousin or classmate
  3. Our inability to spend quality time with them, and succumbing in substituting our guilt with a toy after a business trip

The question here is not how we can cut their addiction to the plastic toys, but perhaps how we can substitute their craving with a more meaningful mean of entertainment?

What if tomorrow USD 20bn of the money that we as parents spend on toys would have been allocated to setting up a fund to fight the pollution in seas, oceans and around the planet?

Why can’t we cut our budgets on toys for only one year by a quarter, globally and to set up an SPV, perhaps we can even call it the Monster Fund, an SPV that could invest clearly in fighting this malaise.

A fund that could hire the best brains, stellar anthropologist, environmentalists and infant and children psychologists that could help the fund to not only identify new games for the children, but to engage the best financial experts to develop a game plan that can be free from a Plastic Footprint in the game-rooms of our children.

We have to stop making our children numb from childhood. We have to remind them that being in nature, being out there being able to swim, to fish to eat without the worry of pollution is the biggest joy in life.

The idea for an SPV/fund is not a fantasy. The fund raising is a matter of will; we have to have the courage to fight the Monster, to fight together and to do so by only allocating in cash a mere quarter of our annual toy budget for only one year.

The fund then can then pull in further Private & Public benefactors and we can draw on various countries from Nordic, Japan, EU and put our money where our mouth is.

The dividend? The future with a clean, sustainable, meaningful and purposeful environment in which our children, grand children and future generations can live, thrive and flourish.

I once read “little things matter and those who say they don’t have never spend a night in a bed with a mosquito”.

The Monster is in our children’s bedrooms. Let us not lose sight of what we can accomplish together.


Ali Borhani is the Managing Director of 3Sixty Strategic Advisors Ltd. It is the readers’ responsibility to verify their own facts. The views and opinions expressed in this article/commentary are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other individual, agency, organization, employer or company.