More than a month after Christmas, new plastic items have started to pile up in the drawers of families in Quebec. In the absence of other solutions, these items will form part of the weight in kilograms of household waste produced by these households. They are toys: quickly forgotten, too quickly thrown away.
Posted at 6:00 am
Clémence DelfiL’s special collaboration
When you type “toy” in the search bar of Ça va là, an application launched by Recyc-Québec to advise consumers on recycling, two options appear: “eco-center” for recycling, or “organization for reuse.”
Operating since 2006, Réno-Jouets is one of these reuse organizations. Its president, Annie Asselin, suggests giving used toys a second life. According to its website, the organization has already recovered more than 1.2 million toys. “On our side, it’s more of an upgrade. We wash the toy, we complete it,” says Annie Asselin. These toys are usually not broken.
“A lot is being done in Quebec in terms of reuse. Toys often have a long lifespan and these products can be reused,” notes Sophie Langlois-Blouin, Vice President of Recyc-Québec Operations Performance.
Upgrade, reuse… but what about discarded toys that have died from wear and tear?
Thousand and one plastic
“Toy plastic is irreplaceable,” says Annie Asselin.
Toys often consist of several parts, and most of these parts are made of different plastics. There is therefore a problem of material separation.
Denis Rodrigue, Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Université Laval
The action plans focus more on the “other Rs”: repair, reuse. Nevertheless, “projects that promote the recovery and recycling of certain products can be funded,” emphasizes Sophie Langlois-Blouin. For example, we have supported a Frisbee recovery project, but it is a product made from only one type of plastic. »
A sector in France
Elsewhere, the toy stands at the beginning of more advanced debates and certain policies. In France, a REP – Extended Producer Responsibility Sector – was set up in January 2023. “With REP, manufacturers who market or distribute toys have to pay an environmental levy in order to share the costs at the end of a toy’s life cycle. The REP sectors also fund prevention, specifically the development of reuse and repair,” explains Alice Elfassi, Legal Director of the French association Zero Waste, which promotes Zero Waste.
The French action plan contains more or less ambitious goals. By 2024, 28% of toys must be collected separately from other waste, for example in supermarkets. The recycling targets are 35% of non-repairable toys recycled in 2024 and 55% in 2027. In addition, there are reuse targets of 6% in 2024 and 9% in 2027.
According to Zero Waste, these ambitions are necessary, but still too weak or contradictory. “The goal of reuse does not seem to us to be important enough for an already developed sector like toy reuse,” notes Alice Elfassi. At the same time, PWRs allow results to be achieved, but also encourage overproduction. The tax applies to the marketing of new products. »
Where are we in Quebec?
In Quebec, Extended Producer Responsibility channels are not ignored, they are just applied in a specific way. “There are certain toys that are already covered by extended producer responsibility schemes: game consoles, toys with batteries for example,” Sophie Langlois-Blouin points out. “In Quebec, we don’t yet have an accurate study that would allow us to know what ends up when toys are recycled. The portrait is missing,” continues the vice president of operational performance at Recyc-Québec.
The complexity of toys therefore encourages the creation of a sector dedicated to collection and processing. An ambitious task that does not seem to be a priority given the accumulation of other waste. “Without wanting to minimize, the toy remains marginal in terms of tonnage,” emphasizes Sophie Langlois-Blouin. “Eco-centres are already full of products that are more problematic than toys,” notes Denis Rodrigue.
Rather, the professor recommends using the French model of collecting waste at source, for example at the large toy retailers. “Also, the challenge is to set up a relief fund for repairs with mandatory participation from marketers. At the moment it has not been implemented for toys,” confirms Alice Elfassi.
100,000 tons of toys disposed of in France every year. The cost of reuse ranges from 5,000 to 9,000 euros (7,300 to 13,100 CAN dollars) for a ton of toys, the Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME) estimated in its 2020 study before the creation of the REP sector.
Source: Agence France-Presse