As children outgrow old toys quickly, many parents are looking to keep their kids happy while keeping sustainability in mind.
Wooden toys are presented as an eco-friendly alternative to plastic toys. They’re renewable and are usually biodegradable and non-toxic.
We’ll guide you through everything you need to know about how eco-friendly wooden toys really are.
1. Are Wooden Toys Made Sustainably?
Wooden toys are somewhat sustainable.
Some brands may make their products from upcycled wood from other industries, but not all of them.
However, given that wood is renewable, these toys are not particularly unsustainable.
Some kinds of wooden toys will contain plastic or magnets but not all. This will impact whether the toy is biodegradable.
Wooden toys are typically painted or varnished, but many brands will also seek out eco-friendly paint and varnish.
2. Are Wooden Toys Bad for the Environment?
Wooden toys are not the worst for the environment, especially when compared to plastic toys.
Plastic is a non-renewable resource, which means that eventually, there will be no more petroleum left to make plastic products. Plastic production is also behind approximately 5% of global emissions.
Plus, even in instances when plastic toys are recyclable, plastic can only be recycled a limited amount of times, so eventually, it will be incinerated or end up in landfills.
Meanwhile, wood is a renewable resource. It is biodegradable and recyclable.
Trees also store carbon, but this is released back into the environment when they are cut down.
So, although wood is renewable, it is not something that can be replenished quickly.
3. Are Wooden Toys Toxic?
Plain wood is not toxic, but wooden toys are usually coated in some sort of varnish or paint.
Wooden toys are usually non-toxic but there may be some exceptions.
Some kinds of varnish or paint are toxic. Solvent-based wood stains may emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can cause air pollution and potentially harm the child’s health.
However, wooden toy manufacturers usually stick to non-toxic ingredients as young children are prone to putting their toys in their mouths.
Many brands used milk paint, which is made from natural pigments, milk protein, chalk, limestone, and sometimes clay. These are natural, non-toxic ingredients.
If the toys are not painted, they will still be covered with some sort of varnish to prevent splinters. These are usually derived from beeswax, tung oil, or linseed oil.
These varnishes are also non-toxic and come from natural sources.
4. Are Wooden Toys Better Than Plastic Toys?
Wooden toys are better than plastic toys since they are renewable.
There are also concerns about children potentially ingesting toxic chemicals if the plastic toys contain BPA or phthalates, which may impact hormones, increase the risk of developing cancer, and have other health consequences.
However, for this reason, many plastic toys are already BPA and phthalate-free.
Wood is usually more durable than plastic. So, wooden toys could last longer than plastic toys, even if your child drops them.
This means there is less demand for new toys as parents will not need to replace these items as quickly.
It also makes it easier to donate old toys once a child grows up as they are likely to still be in good condition.
5. Are Wooden Toys Biodegradable?
Wood is biodegradable, but wooden toys typically are not.
Some wooden toys contain plastic or magnets. These wooden toys are not biodegradable unless these elements are removed.
Typically only pure, unvarnished, unpainted wood is biodegradable.
6. Are Wooden Toys Compostable?
Wood is compostable, but not all wooden toys are.
In order to be considered compostable, a product must break down into organic matter, which means while wood is naturally compostable, not all wooden toys are.
Wooden toys coated with milk paint or a natural varnish, such as tung oil, are compostable.
Other kinds of paint and varnish are not since they could potentially release VOCs when they degrade.
7. Are Wooden Toys Recyclable?
While most wood is technically recyclable, wooden toys are rarely suited for recycling.
These recycling facilities do not have the means to process wood, so unvarnished and unpainted wood products should be sent to a wood recycling facility.
Wood with varnish or paint cannot be recycled, even if these are milk paints or non-toxic varnishes.
Wood is categorized into different grades based on how recyclable it is.
Wood that has been painted or treated, such as painted or varnished wooden toys, is considered grade D.
This grade is not recycled and is typically disposed of as hazardous waste.
8. Are Wooden Toys Sustainable?
Wooden toys are not the most unsustainable option for toys, but they’re not as green as you may initially think.
While wood is a renewable material, it takes a long time to replenish.
As mentioned earlier, they are rarely recyclable and might not always be compostable, depending on how they were treated.
However, their durability is promising as they may last longer than flimsy plastic toys.
9. How to Dispose of Wooden Toys?
If the toys are still in good condition, you can try to upcycle them. You can donate them to someone in your life with young children, a thrift store, or a children’s hospital.
If your wooden toys happen to contain no plastic, glue, magnets, paint, or varnish, you can send them to a wood recycling facility. Otherwise, you can dispose of them in your general waste bin.
However, an industrial composting facility may accept wooden toys if they are coated with non-toxic, compostable paint or varnish and do not contain plastic or magnets.
Large chunks of wood will take too long to break down in your home composting bin.
Eco-Friendly Wooden Toy Brands
1. Petit Collage
Many Petit Collage toys are made from recycled materials. They also used plant-based inks to color their products.
2. Uncle Goose
Uncle Goose claim their wood is sustainably sourced. They also use non-toxic inks and paint.
Many PlanToys products are made from recycled materials and non-toxic paint.
Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Wooden Toys
1. Bamboo Toys
Bamboo has a similar texture to wood but grows considerably faster. It is much easier to replenish than wood is.
2. Recycled Milk Jug Toys
Some brands have opted to sell toys made from recycled milk jugs.
This means fewer trees are cut down for toys. Since new materials are not made from scratch, recycled toys can save energy and resources.