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Thinking outside the toy box: how to give new life to old playthings

Thinking outside the toy box: how to give new life to old playthings
By Paul Hackett

More than 25 million tonnes of plastic waste is collected each year in the European Union. But only about a third of it is recycled.

As concern grows about the amount of plastic pollution we’re leaving for future generations, a Belgian company is trying to redress the balance - and set a great example to children in the process.

EcoBirdy is collecting old toys and turning them into useful furniture that will last a lifetime.

The company's founder, Joris Vanbriel, spoke to Business Planet about how the idea came about.

Why toys?

Joris Vanbriel: "After research we found out that toys use plastic most intensively, more intensively than other consumer products. And they are very valuable plastic. So it's absolutely necessary to recycle plastic toys because they have a short lifetime. Usually they're not recycled because they are considered difficult to recycle. They're composed of different materials, different kinds of plastics. So it needs a lot of work to separate them and to recycle them. And we think that transforming plastic toys into children’s furniture makes sense. And for children it's a great example of a circular economy."

Business Planet: “And what kind of interest have you had in the product?”

Joris Vanbriel: Children are attracted by the unusual and colourful pattern. And they like to touch it around the shapes of the furniture and for their parents they think they fit nice in their modern interior. And there is the story behind to tell and in their way they also contribute to reducing the sea of plastic waste."

Business Planet: “And what are your plans and hopes for the future?”

Joris Vanbriel: "We are exploring and developing new materials to create more sustainable products out of it. And we are looking for large companies to share our knowhow and develop such a product.”