Disposing of plastic

I'm writing this with a bit of a heavy heart. I've written, spoken about and trained people on combating the developing argument that all plastic = bad resources. It doesn't!

But for those of you who are wanting to get rid of your plastic in UK settings for right or wrong reasons, this post is for you. 

Plastic can take thousands of years to decompose (if it ever does) and much of the plastic we use in the Early Years is thick hardened plastic (I can't find figures on this type of plastic decompostation rate but I suspect it will outlive our race).  We have a rise in plastics found in the oceans with an increasing amount being found in the fish we eat, the air we breath and even inside our digestive systems. 


As a positive response to this some settings are choosing to no longer buy plastic or products containing some elements of plastic. This is a wonderful choice for the environment and one which I do applaud. Plastic has its place and uses but not in the quantities which we have seen in the past.

What I cannot condone is the rise of settings who are 'dumping' plastic to replace it with wooden or metal objects. By this I mean they see the amount of plastic in their settings as problematic and replacing it with objects perceived to be better. Now I do talk (AT LENGTH) at times about how this argument of plastic Vs Natural/Wood & Metal is absurd, but the main purpose of this post is to demonstrate to you is what to do with this plastic rather than just 'dumping it.'


Our first step is (hopefully) an obvious one to you, Reuse! This could mean donating your item to any of the charity shops in your area, to a needy family from your school or setting or finding one of the many many food banks* we now have in the UK and find out if they are accepting toy donations (many do but some are already overflowing!). If you item is in good condition then most people would be more than happy to give a toy a new home. It is important to explain to the recipient that you are trying to encourage re-use so when they have finished they should consider 'paying it forward' rather than dumping it in the rubbish bin.  

*link opens to the Trussell group foodbanks, other food banks are operating in the UK. 


Recycling is very hit and miss considering there are 7 different types of 'everyday plastics' and most councils recycle only some of these plastics (if any). Our toys are generally made from hard plastic which can be made from mixed plastic types as well as not acceptable by most recycling services. Where toys are already made from recycled plastics they cannot be then recycled into new plastic items (without adding virgin plastic or turning them into clothing.) Where toys can be separated into individual plastics do consider sorting them for your local recycling centre to dispose of appropriately. This isn't an ideal solution but far better than ending up in landfill!

The next step is ideal for those settings who are looking to get rid of large amounts of good quality plastic (and need funds to replace those toys) - sell!  I make a joke on my training that if you're getting rid of your compare bears, send them to me! I can eBay them. It may be a joke but compare bears, like other toys, are always in demand and cost a lot of money. EBay, Amazon, Facebook market place or even just Instagram, twitter or Snapchat are good places to sell your goods. For eBay and Amazon, you're selling as a more professional selling but doing so to a much wider group of people. You'll most likely to responsible for shipping so it's worth double checking this is cost effective.  Facebook marketplace is an ideal place to sell items for a low amount of even trade (or give away!) items. I use marketplace a lot to find unusual items. It's a place that many practitioners and parents use so any educational resource tends to sell very well. Equally there are many Buy/sell/swap groups for your local community on Facebook.

I haven't personally used but some people use Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat to sell resources. This only works if you have an active following of educators or parents who would buy from you otherwise your resources will get no attention.

Other ideas

Consider giving to The Toy Project - this organisation takes referrals (much like a food bank) and delivers toys to those who are in need.

Set up a local 'Toy library.' - If you find that you have a significant amount of unwanted resources you can bundle these in bags and provide access to any local family to come and borrow a toy for free. Teaming up with local settings, schools, health providers etc will mean that you become a hub that people will be sent to.

Upcycle - some of the toys you'd like to remove from your setting find a better life as being part of something bigger. I've started a board here on pinterest which I'll be updated as and when I find new ideas. This isn't a new field but sadly there aren't as many creative ideas as I would like. You can harness the creativity of those in your setting to create far better ideas;)