It is pretty obvious what do with cans, glass containers and even PET bottles once they are emptied. But for other products, such as plastic toys, recycling can pose a tricky question. After all, the types of plastics that are accepted into waste management streams vary by municipality. But Tom’s of Maine, in a partnership with TerraCycle, says it has a solution.

As part of the brand's “Less Waste Challenge,” consumers can collect and box broken or unwanted toys and send them to TerraCycle. The process is simple. Customers need to click a link to print a free shipping label, and then the goods can be sent to TerraCycle. Both companies infer that any toys will be accepted, including plush toys such as stuffed animals. In the meantime, TerraCycle is trying to boost the recycling of toys, including electronic gadgets, by the sales of boxes that are designed to encourage and scale their recycling. Neither company has disclosed how those toys will be recycled or upcycled.

Tom’s of Maine has promoted the recycling of toys before. Two years ago, the company tried to raise awareness of the fact that billions of toys are purchased annually, and cited statistics suggesting that over half of them are tossed way when no longer wanted. Families were able to receive a free shipping box from TerraCycle, and in turn send it back to the upcycling company once it was filled.

There is one caveat: both companies suggest that the box is not shipped until there are least 10 pounds of toys tucked into the package. But unlike other recycling campaigns, such as a recent one TerraCycle launched with Garnier, the accumulation of 10 pounds of toys in the typical household should not be too steep of a challenge.

As the global economy has recovered, the sales of toys has surged. One trade association reported that the industry in the U.S. alone surpassed over $20 billion in sales last year. But the wide use of plastics in these toys, many of which have a short life, highlights concerns that far too many of them end up in municipal dumps. Reports from publications including the Guardian, which have suggested that recycled toxic electronic waste has come back as children’s toys, further suggest that the industry can do far more in order to become more responsible and sustainable.

This toy challenge is part of a Tom’s of Maine initiative to educate consumers about the amount of waste their households send to landfill. Last year, the company accelerated its waste diversion awareness efforts by urging customers to reduce the amount of waste thrown into the garbage by one pound a week. The maker of natural toothpaste and deodorant says such promises have prevented the disposal of over 226,000 pounds – or promises from approximately 4,300 customers.

Image credit: Diane Bales/Flickr

Published earlier today on Triple Pundit.

About The Author

Leon Kaye

Leon Kaye is the founder and editor of Based in California, he specializes in social media consulting and strategic communications. A journalist and writer since 2009, his work has appeared on Triple Pundit , The Guardian's Sustainable Business site and has appeared on Inhabitat and Earth911. His focus is making the business case for sustainability and corporate social responsibility. Areas of interest include the <a Middle East, sustainable development in The Balkans, Brazil and Korea. He was a new media journalism fellow at the International Reporting Project, for which he covered child survival in India during February 2013. Contact him at You can also reach out via Twitter (Leon Kaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost). Since 2013, he has spent much of his time in Abu Dhabi, UAE, working with Masdar, the emirate's renewable energy company. He lives in Fresno, California.