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Living Lightly column

Cutting Down on Waste is Child’s Play

By Sarah McAlister, Yackandandah Toy Library

When my partner and I had our first child, we were acutely aware of the stuff that came with having said child, and would quickly fill the space in our small house – the pram, the car seat, the cot, the teeny tiny clothes, the cloth nappies, the hand-me-down toys – all the bits and bobs.

As our daughter’s first birthday loomed, we were both in agreement – we didn’t want to start accumulating cheap and nasty plastic toys! Enter the Yackandandah Toy Library.

As our daughter grew, and we had a second child, we were able to borrow toys specific to their relevant age and stage. As every carer knows, these stages can be short-lived and some children change their interests in a matter of weeks.

Not only does being part of a toy library save families money, it also reduces the amount of waste being produced.

Instead of each family owning all their own toys, they share them!

At our toy library, we hesitate to throw out toys that are broken or have missing pieces. We hunt down spare parts, fix what we can, recycle the toy by joining it to another toy set.

We also take donations of good quality unisex second-hand toys, and what we can’t use we sell for a donation or pass on to the local op shop. We also select toys carefully – they need to be robust, as we don’t want to be throwing broken toys away after just a few loans.

So we do prefer wood over plastic often, except where Duplo is concerned (it lives on and on!) and where possible, sustainably and ethically produced and if made of plastic, it needs to be recyclable (ie. Green Toys, Grimms, Hape, Le Toy Van).

We have been toy library members for seven years, and we spend $30 a year on toys, for two children, because that is how little it costs to have access to hundreds of toys shared between a current membership of 29 families (so about 53 children).

For birthdays and Christmas we still buy presents, but we buy things like Lego, books, pyjamas, swimmers, tickets to theatre shows, a new bicycle.

Everything else we can borrow from our local toy library – it’s a win-win for us, our community, and the environment!