Reader question: How do I recycle broken toys and books?

Reader Angie sends in this question:

I have lots of toys (mostly plastic) that cannot be donated or passed down. They either broken or missing parts. How do I recycle them? Can I just put them in the recycling bin? What about children’s books that are either ripped, missing covers, or stained. Can I put them in the recycling bin as well? One more question: What is a good way to store books for a long time to be passed down?

Many parents struggle with these questions Angie so thank you for asking!

Toy disposal

Before we look at recycling, there are other ways to keep toys out of the waste stream. Many people take toys and parts of toys and create new toys and various types of art. Check out:

I’m not suggesting that you become an artist in your spare time but consider listing the pile of broken toys on Craigslist or Freecycle and see if a creative-type person or artistic group wants them.

One of the more complicated parts about recycling is that every municipality has a different recycling program. The best thing to do is to visit your city’s website and find the information about recycling. Cities may have more recycling options if you are able to drop off at their depot. Earth911 does a great job of explaining the mystery of why toys are so difficult to recycle.

Another option for recycling toys is to contact TerraCycle and purchase a Zero Waste Toy Box. TerraCycle will ship you an empty box, you fill it with broken toys then ship the box back using the pre-paid shipping label. TerraCycle will separate the toy’s components and ensure they get into the correct recycling stream.

The Zero Waste Boxes are expensive ($95 USD for the small toys box) so you may want to collaborate with other parents in your neighbourhood, community centre, school, or house of worship. After all, saving the planet is a good cause.

Book disposal

Most untreated paper can be recycled. Many books — especially children’s books cannot because they have been treated with wax, glues, or plastic coating. Investigate your municipality’s recycling website to see what the options are for recycling books. Earth911 explains the mysteries of book recycling and has some great suggestions for used books including books in “less than prime” condition. TerraCycle also has a Zero Waste Book Box which might be an option for your school or local library.

Book preservation

Reading with children is a great way to form a lasting bond. I kept many of our children’s favourite books including the entire Franklin the Turtle series. To tell the truth, I think I kept them more for me than for my kids. Should I be blessed with grandchildren someday, I would love to share these books with them.

In addition to our best tips on how to store treasured books, I would suggest to do a gentle cleaning of children’s books. Use an old, clean and soft toothbrush to remove any caked-on food or playdough. If the books have been on a shelf for a while, vacuum the edges with a soft brush using the lowest suction setting. Blot any greasy spots with an absorbent cloth. Ensure books are dry before storing.

Thanks for your great question Angie. We hope that this post gives you the information you’re looking for.

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