19 May 2011

April 2011: Toy Library

About six months ago we joined the local toy library (not in April as the heading suggests, but April was when I got to considering it as a sustainable act). The toy library has been wonderful. Every three weeks we get a batch of new toys and send the tired ones back for someone else. Its particularly useful for expensive items that we would never purchase, big items that we don't really want around all the time but enjoy having for a short time,  noisy items that we get sick of, things that Eva will love for a short time but quickly grow out of, and things we want to test out before committing to purchasing our own item.

Initial Time: Signing up to the toy library took about ten minutes.

Initial Cost: As we joined part-way through the year our initial cost was about $40.

Ongoing time or cost commitment: Annual toy library membership is about $70 I think, less for concession holders. We also have to be on the roster about once a quarter to do a shift checking items in and out (about 2-3 hours depending which day of the week and how busy it is) and participate in the annual stocktake. The form also committed us to participating in fundraising activities but that hasn't come up yet.

It takes about half an hour in general for us to make a trip to the library, by the time we get there, return things, choose new items, check out and get home.

Impact: Significant reduction in the amount of resources consumed in our entertainment, especially plastic, the petrochemical-sourced primary material of so many children's toys. Not to mention the inordinate amount of waste material generated by toys' packaging. And, as kids grow out of so many toys in a short amount of time, especially the big plastic ones, toys purchased today are generally landfill tomorrow, so library use reduces landfill also.

Given the (in)frequency we need to be rostered, I estimate there are about 60-70 families using our toy library. If each of those families buys ten less toys per year as a result of using the toy library, that is 600-700 less toys being produced, packaged and disposed of in our neighbourhood alone. Lets say half of those were strong plastic toys of a moderate size (to give an idea, the ride-on fire engine in the photo above weighs about 7kg and the Noah's Ark set about 2kg). We could be looking at a reduction of 1-2 tonnes of plastic each year from the presence of just one toy library.


  1. Hi, are you happy for me to use this as a link on our web page which will go live in a week or two? Here is the link. I love your calculations, it makes it really stand out!

    1. Hello Jana, so sorry I didn't reply to you six months ago. Great to see you went ahead with linking from your toy library website. Best wishes. Clare