Sustainable Barbie? Mattel’s New Toy ‘PlayBack’ Program Aims to Reduce Landfill Waste

Barbie and her friends are off to Malibu—but only after a pitstop in the ol’ recycling factory.

Toy manufacturer Mattel wants your old Barbie dolls. Or her parts. In a bid to reduce waste, the company has launched “PlayBack,” a consumer program to help keep old toys out of landfills. It’s currently taking back Barbie, Matchbox, and Mega toys, with plans to add more brands in the near future.

The program—part of Mattel’s efforts to transition to 100 percent recycled, recyclable, or bio-based materials by 2030—encourages consumers to print out a free shipping label and send back used toys or toy parts. Then, Mattel sorts the toys and either repurposes or downcyles the products.

According to Mattel’s CEO Richard Dickson, the sustainability initiative is in line with the brand’s ethos: toys should be shared.

“A key part of our product design process is a relentless focus on innovation, and finding sustainable solutions is one significant way we are innovating,” Dickson said in a statement. “Our Mattel PlayBack program is a great example of this, enabling us to turn materials from toys that have lived their useful life into recycled materials for new products.” 

Sustainable Barbie? Mattel's New Toy Take Back Program Aims to Reduce Landfill Waste
Photo by Ivan Diaz on Unsplash

Mattel Goes Green

As part of its shift toward sustainability, the brand recently released a Tesla Matchbox car made from 99 percent recycled materials. It also recently greened its popular card game, Uno, made from recyclable paper. Last month, the toy giant launched Drive Toward a Better Future, which aims to make all of its Matchbox cars, playsets, and packaging from recyclable and renewable or recyclable materials by 2022. The products will also be certified Carbon Neutral.

“At Mattel, we are committed to managing the environmental impact of our products,” said global head of sustainability Pamela Gill-Alabaster. “The Mattel PlayBack program helps parents and caregivers ensure that materials stay in play and out of landfills, with the aim to repurpose these materials as recycled content in new toys.”

To participate in the Mattel PlayBack program, visit Mattel.com/PlayBack.

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