Kids are instinctive recyclers. An old cardboard box becomes a race car. A paper towel tube is transformed into a spyglass. A coffee can is a drum that just doesn’t know it yet. Green Toys is a company that aims to apply that child-like zeal for creative recycling to our kids’ store-bought toys. Green Toys uses everyday “trash” to create sustainable versions of classic children’s toys without using any raw materials or potentially harmful chemicals.

From 2 Percent Milk to 100 Percent Recycled

So what makes a sustainable toy? If you ask Green Toys, the answer is milk jugs. All Green Toys products are made entirely from recycled milk jugs collected from curbside recycling bins throughout the company’s home state of California.

According to Ian Coats MacColl, Chief Creative Officer at Green Toys, milk jugs are an ideal material because they are made of food-safe plastic that contains no bisphenol A (BPA), polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or phthalates. These chemicals are found in many types of plastic, but recent studies suggest they may be harmful when ingested or absorbed through the skin due to the way they interact with human hormones.

A Green Toys truck next to the shredded milk jug material it's made from.

Source: Green Toys

Since young children often spend as much time chewing on their toys as they do playing with them, using food-safe plastic is a safety must. In order to preserve that food-safe quality, Green Toys doesn’t use plasticizers, commonly used to make plastics more flexible, or other additives during the manufacturing process.

But for Green Toys, producing an environmentally-friendly toy isn’t just about using recycled plastic. It extends to the nuts and bolts of each product—literally. Green Toys uses no glue or screws to hold toy parts together; in fact, they use no metal in their products whatsoever. As Coats MacColl explains, “When you use mixed materials, whether each material is recyclable or not, things tend to end up in the landfill.”

In many areas, products made from mixed materials must be disassembled so that each material can be recycled separately. By creating products solely from a single material, Green Toys makes it easy for busy parents to recycle toys their children have outgrown.

Instead of paint, we take a lot of care in putting texture and detailing into the surface of our parts. It looks great, costs next to nothing and keeps toxic paints out of our offering.

Ian Coats MacColl | Chief Creative Officer, Green Toys

The Local Difference

Unlike so many other manufacturers, all of Green Toys’ products are manufactured in the United States, at factories in California and Illinois. Additionally, they import no plastic from overseas—100 percent of the milk jugs they use are collected right here at home.

This benefits the environment by reducing fuel use and transportation emissions, but it also benefits Green Toys’ consumers and employees. Saving on transportation enables the company to offer their sustainable toys at lower prices. And by manufacturing locally, the company can better ensure worker safety and environmental compliance at their factories.

A group of sustainable toys including a dump truck and a sorting game.

Source: Green Toys

Green Toys takes their eco-friendly mission even further by conducting regular Life Cycle Analyses on their products. LCAs examine the environmental impact of a product during every stage of its lifecycle, from materials acquisition to manufacturing to distribution and beyond. According to Coats MacColl, Green Toys conducts these LCAs because “we are always trying to make the best decisions regarding the energy usage of our products. We use these as a benchmark for improvement in the future.”

Our toys and tableware are truly local creations, and we believe that the authenticity and quality inherent in manufacturing here is evident in each and every product we put on the market.

Ian Coats MacColl | Chief Creative Officer, Green Toys

Changing the Toy Game

When Green Toys was founded in 2007, there were no genuinely eco-friendly toys on the market. The company was created based on a simple desire to put out a truly sustainable product with higher quality and safety standards.

Today’s parents are increasingly concerned about the materials that go into their children’s toys. Green Toys chooses to operate as transparently as possible so that parents can confirm for themselves that their toys are sustainable, safe and healthy.

A child playing with eco-friendly toys.

Source: Green Toys

As of writing, Green Toys has turned 48,869,406 milk jugs into everything from fire engines to farm playsets. That number grows by the minute, as does the number of kids concocting childhood adventures with toys their parents can feel good about.

Green Toys products help educate children about recycling and close the loop in a way that is meaningful and fun. We hope to inspire them to protect our planet in their own personal way.

Ian Coats MacColl | Chief Creative Officer, Green Toys

Explore the Environmental Innovators section of our blog for other organizations with a unique take on sustainability. Looking to be more eco-friendly in your own life? Check out our Green Living resources.