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London Toy Fair | Innovation and design is fuelling industry change

Fri 28 Jan 2022 | 02:56 pm GMT
Rob Hutchins | Products of Change Writer

Build Your Own is among the number of toy companies pushing envelope in design, engineering and innovation

Material innovations, staggering feats of engineering on the small scale, and conversations around extending play value to reduce consumer waste; London Toy Fair blasted back on to the scene this past week, bringing with it a focus on sustainability more pronounced than ever before. Making its welcome return following the pandemic-induced hiatus of the London Olympia trade show last year, Toy Fair – though understandably quieter than years before – still delivered the excited buzz of an industry happy to catch up face-to-face once more. And, playing a somewhat more central topic of conversation than ever before, ideas on taking the industry into a more sustainable future were being expressed across the aisles in some rather innovative and forward-thinking manifestations. Whether it was the development of new materials and plastic alternatives, to a showcase of engineering brilliance as to what can be achieved without a bit of plastic in sight, the toy industry really is beginning to embrace the change we all need to see.
Golden Bear and Rainbow Toys take to London Toy Fair to showcase their respective sustainable journeys across the business so far
Taking the lead on conversation across the plush toy sector, Golden Bear, Rainbow Designs, and Keel Toys showcased some impressive developments and expanded ranges utilising recycled plastic in the manufacturing process of some of the most popular lines, and best-loved children’s brands, in the sector today. Keel Toys recently announced the expansion of its Keeleco collection to include some 120 characters as well as a new, large-scale nursery collection, all produced using recycled plastic from bottles. Today, Keel Toys boasts to have repurposed some 14 million plastic water bottles for the production of its Keeleco collection. Now, as the team introduces its newest addition to the sustainably-focused line, Keeleco Adoptable World, it only expects that number – and engagement from families and children – to rocket further. Meanwhile, and taking inspiration from the collection it launched in partnership with BBC Earth in recent years, Posh Paws has developed its own range of recycled plastic plush animals – a line it will distribute across both the Posh Paws and Whitehouse Leisure businesses, as it looks to expand the line in the coming months and years. Compounded with the strides being taken by Golden Bear, who now plans to introduce the recycled materials solutions at play across its Hey Duggee plush ranges to its Mr Tumble and The Baby Club, as well as keen new design innovation to remove single use plastic from its packaging, too, alongside the ongoing journey Rainbow Designs is on across some it the best-loved pre-school brands today, and the concept of closing the loop is one that is certainly being taken more seriously than ever before.
Golden Bear has removed single use plastic from all Hey Duggee toy packaging with plans to bring the initiative to other leading brands this year.
Efforts in the environment Big Potato – the London-based party games specialist – has launched the first pack pf playing cards made from recovered ocean plastic while reducing box sizes across its games portfolio and stripping out plastics, right down to the sticky tabs – now made from a cellulose solution – that keeps a lid in place, across the range. Meanwhile, Gibsons has, similarly, made huge efforts in box size reduction, stripping out single use plastics and teamed with One Tribe for a new initiative to help protect trees in the Amazon Rainforest from deforestation via purchases made through its online platform. With jigsaw puzzles witnessing surges of 240 per cent in recent times, Gibsons now fully expects that the initiative could work to save around 350,000 trees this year alone. Of course, saving trees is never a bad thing. Likewise, planting them. A matter that SES Creative, the purveyors of some interesting developments in the arts and crafts space, knows too well through its own tree-planting exercises in recent years. It was at London Toy Fair this week that the team detailed its waste reduction across the business, and a new tree-planting exercise that has helped it balance its carbon impact. Planting – it goes without saying – is the core theme for the UK gifting start-up, Willsow, who landed at London’s Olympia this year to showcase its Plantable Children’s Book series. A collection of books made from plantable seed paper, each story follows the adventure of a hero vegetable or herb character, that kids can then grow for themselves in their garden simply by planting their books once they have finished reading them. It's an effective showcase of the creative thinking that can go some length to transform the children’s publishing and learning sector into a regenerative one.
Build Your Own have showcased some excellent feats in engineering FSC cardboard into buildable toy ranges
Reuse and reduce waste As far-reaching as the subject of sustainability is, so too are the various approaches from company’s to play their role in closing the loop, reducing waste and keeping products in the value stream. Core to many are the systems they have in place to ensure that consumers are able to reuse their products. John Adams, for example, has a part replacement service that spans its entire portfolio of games and products – enabling consumers to restore their old products rather than throw them away. Likewise, Micro Scooters not only used the London Toy Fair as the platform to showcase its new, carbon neutral, planet-friendly scooter, but to highlight its reuse and replacement part service that will keep a child’s scooter in use for the long haul. In many cases, sustainable solutions can be found when the brain is switched from thinking in the most linear terms, to those a little more circular. And there’s no better way to maintain a captive audience for products than providing a service and platform that drives that community aspect. Thinking more creatively about solutions is going to be integral to taking the global toy industry into a sustainable and regenerative future. The brilliance with which design and engineering has been approached by the likes of Wow! Stuff, whose work with the packaging around its range of Gruffalo toys will be revealed in more detail in the coming weeks, or Build Your Own who today showcases the creativity that flows through sustainable design, point towards a very bright future industry. It is conversation like this that will continue to push the envelope in innovation, and expanding the parameters within which business is conducted, all the time. And there's no better conversation than that for the industry right now.
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