Products of Change


Tue 16 Nov 2021 | by Rob Hutchins

Kids Industries Research Revealed | Parents call for easier-to-recycle toys while kids show need for better eco-education

Almost half of parents in the UK would like to see toy companies implement greater measures to make their toys easier to recycle, in order to stem the tide of those that are thrown away or head to landfill when they are no longer desired. This is according to the agenda-setting findings of new research into the relationship that children and their parents have with the topic of sustainability. It found that despite a quarter of UK parents making conscious efforts to purchase sustainable toys for their children last year, around 15 per cent of toys bought in the UK today head to landfill when they are no longer used. Launched by the family-focused marketing agency, Kids Industries and headed up by its co-founder, Gary Pope, the findings of the new report have been revealed at the Sustainability Activation today, the opening day of Brand Licensing Europe 2021. The study arrives hot on the heels of COP26 and the announcement that the UK government is planning to change the primary curriculum to include climate change science and sustainability studies. The research reflect the findings of a survey of 2,001 children and parents in the UK and US, and shines a light on current perceptions today, and the changes that families would like to see. The insight has lifted the veil on a number of topics spanning the wider sustainability conversation on the family market, from what happens to toys when they outlive their use, and the family sector’s perception of the circular economy, to the basic understanding that children and families have of the climate change crisis on the whole. It has all been launched as part of Gary Pope’s role as Children’s Ambassador with Products of Change. The findings arrive with an accompanying QR that readers are able to scan below to access the Kids Insights research in full. Key among the findings is the matter that while 63 per cent of UK children and 67 per cent in the US aged five to 15 believe our impact on the environment and wildlife is the most important issue we face today, a larger proportion of that demographic still do not know what ‘sustainability’ means. In fact, 65 per cent of children aged five to 15 do not know what the term means, this includes 80 per cent of five to seven year olds and 50 per cent of 12 to 15 years olds. 87 per cent of UK children do not know what the term ‘greenwashing’ means, while 86 per cent do not understand the term ‘bioplastic’. The findings highlight that 42 per cent of children in the UK are indeed confused about environmental issues. This rises to 53 per cent among US children but the confusion does reduce with age. Despite the knowledge gap when it comes to the terminology, an encouraging number of children recognise the importance of taking care of the environment. In the UK, 94 per cent of children (92 per cent in the US) have done something for the environment, most commonly recycling (63 per cent in the UK and 36 per cent in the US). The desire to do good by the environment is strong with children in both the UK and the US. 83 per cent of children in the UK and US agree that everyone can be environmentally friendly if they try hard enough, but have equally shown an understanding of the financial restrictions surrounding acting more sustainably. It was 69 per cent of UK children and 77 per cent of those in the US that said they would do more for the environment if they had more time and money. On the topic of the kind of toys that children play with, plastic is still king. However, the research suggests that planet-friendly options are indeed catching up. Plastic toys emerged as the most popular toy category purchased in the past 12 months, accounting for 42 per cent of parents in the UK and 52 per cent of parents in the US. The second most popular category in the UK was second hand toys, with an impressive 37 per cent. In the US, the second largest category by popularity was wooden toys – with 38 per cent. Plastic toys have emerged as the most frequently bought in the US at 32 per cent, but in the UK, more parents are buying second hand (25 per cent) over plastic (22 per cent). Despite the apparent increase in greater sustainable toy purchasing, 14 per cent of UK families state that these toys are then thrown away to become landfill once they have reached the end of their use. In the US this rises to 16 per cent of families. However, an encouraging 32 per cent of UK families and 26 per cent of US, suggest their old toys are given to charity when they are no longer wanted. Interestingly, 25 per cent of UK parents said that they had bought a ‘sustainable’ toy in the past year. This increases to 37 per cent of parents in the US. The same research has gone on to highlight the key changes parents would like to see implemented around the topic of sustainability in the children’s sector. 48 per cent of UK parents said they would like to see products that are easier to recycle, while 45 per cent voiced a desire for cheaper sustainable product options. Both UK and US parents would also like to see their toy purchases come with a longer shelf life. Some 37 per cent of UK parents and 35 per cent of US parents would like to see products that are easier to refurbish or fix. “The introduction of a new environment-based curriculum couldn’t come at a better time,” said Gary Pope, CEO and co-founder of Kids Industries and Children’s Ambassador for Products of Change. “Children need supporting in their knowledge of the issues at hand and what they can do to make a difference – never underestimate the power of collective responsibility. That said, parents don’t want more information, they want it to be easier and they’re looking for companies that can facilitate this. “The demand for new solutions from children and their parents is evident – and just as recycling is at the forefront of children’s minds, it’s playing on their parents thinking, too, and best of all, it’s the easiest solution. “There’s now a genuine desire too for toys that are produced more sustainably – a consciousness to see less waste. The toy industry has a responsibility to review these figures and adjust accordingly. The time to take action and listen to wants and desires in these areas is now.” Gary Pope will be at Brand Licensing Europe this week on the Products of Change Sustainability Activation from 17th to 19th November. He will be available for interviews and will be presenting in the Retail Trends Lounge at 10am on Friday 19th November.