Tom’s of Maine and TerraCycle Take Back Toys for Earth Month

If you’re a parent of young children like me, your house may at times resemble a toy warehouse. If you’re also keen to reuse or recycle whenever you can, the collections of old action figures, peculiar fast food kids’ meal giveaway items, or outgrown stuffed animals that linger in your yard sale “FREE” box can be a bit depressing. Some things can be difficult to donate or consign, even when they’re in good condition, and broken toys aren’t typically on the “accepted for recycling” lists of waste haulers.


But happy Earth Month to you! Tom’s of Maine and TerraCycle have teamed up to keep those unwanted toys out of landfill for a limited time only. Through April 30, you can print out a free shipping label to mail up to 10 pounds of unwanted toys to TerraCycle for recycling. See for details and to print your own label.


While the promotion page doesn’t specify what will become of your castoffs, one can assume they will be treated just as materials accepted through TerraCycle’s Toy Zero Waste Box program–which is NOT free and available year round. That program’s site says “The collected waste is mechanically and/or manually separated into fabrics, metals, fibers, and plastics. Fabrics are reused, upcycled or recycled as appropriate. Metals are melted so they may be recycled. The fibers (such as paper or wood based products) are recycled or composted. The plastics undergo extrusion and pelletization to be molded into new recycled plastic products.” If you’re wondering whether they really do want your child’s old water gun, check out their list of accepted materials on that program’s page as well.


If you have only a few items to dispose of, and they’re in good working order, remember that reuse should always be explored before recycling, to make the most of the human and natural resources already invested in a product’s manufacture. Members of the Champaign-Urbana community can check out the non-comprehensive list of local organizations and businesses which accept items for reuse or resale beginning on page 2 of our fact sheet “Reducing & Recycling Waste: University of IL & Champaign-Urbana” for ideas.

Box filled and surrounded by toys such as stuffed animals, balls, and plastic cars. Tom's of Maine logo in upper right.

About Joy Scrogum

Joy is a Sustainability Specialist at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), a division of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She has worked on developing & maintaining online resources for the Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable since 2001. She also currently coordinates the Sustainable Electronics Initiative & works on Zero Waste Illinois projects, including the Illini Gadget Garage and the Green Lunchroom Challenge. Key past projects include coordinating the International Sustainable Electronics Competition, developing & teaching ENG 498 "Sustainable Technology: Environmental & Social Impacts of Innovations," & Greening Schools, which focused on making K-12 facilities & curricula more sustainable.
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