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Toy Story Replay

What’s in this article:

  • Mattel Inc. launched Mattel PlayBack to enable customers to recycle toys once they’re done playing with them
  • The company wants to insist that its toys are meant to last and be passed on from generation to generation
  • There are some downsides, but it’s still a great way to encourage recycling among customers

Now you don’t have to throw out the Barbie®, Matchbox® and MEGA toys abandoned by your kids. You can mail them back to Mattel for recycling.

On May 10, Mattel announced the launch of Mattel PlayBack, a way for plastic toys to get a second life rather than take up room in a landfill: the company will take back Barbie dolls!

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“The new program is designed to recover and reuse materials from old Mattel toys for future Mattel products, and supports the company’s goal to achieve 100% recycled, recyclable or bio-based plastic materials across all products and packaging by 2030,” the announcement explained.

What’s interesting is that the company wants to insist that its toys are meant to last and be passed on from generation to generation. The first statement on the PlayBack page is:

“Play should not have a shelf life or be tossed away. We design toys to be loved, cherished and passed on from one generation to the next.”

But really, unless those Barbie dolls become collectors’ items and have been preserved in pristine condition by not being played with, it’s unlikely you’d find anyone interested in inheriting a doll with messed up hair and most of the accessories lost. But throwing the doll in the garbage would be bad from a sustainability point of view.

Customer marketing challenges and opportunities

That’s why Mattel introduced “guilt-free solutions” to this toy waste problem: “The Mattel Playback program helps put valuable materials back into play and out of landfills so that the fun comes full circle.”

It’s as simple as 1-2-3:

Why do they bother to mail the shipping label instead of emailing it like all online sellers who offer free returns do? That is not one of the questions answered in its FAQ, though it does assure whoever is on the computer asking about how to get the label without a computer that they can request a shipping by calling (800) 524-8697.

Barbie®, Matchbox® and MEGA are the only categories of toys to be accepted for recycling now, though Mattel promises it will be adding more in future. I’m all for recycling, and I think this is a positive step, though it can do better.

To encourage people to go through the trouble of packing up their toys and mailing them in, they should offer some kind of incentive, and points toward new toys. That would make the most sense for Mattel. They also should consider having drop-off boxes at toy stores to cut down on the unnecessary waste of so many individual boxes going from each household.

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