Our team here at Recycled & Renewed (R&R) have uncovered tons of companies out there using recycled plastic, paper, and cardboard to make their products and reduce waste.
In this post we’ll introduce companies making their products from 100% recycled plastic, diverting tons of plastic from landfills every year. We will also spotlight another company with an inspiring social mission and an environmentally conscious approach to business that includes accepting their used products back for recycling.
First, some background. The recycling industry is in crisis. In response to our growing trade war, China has tightened its rules for accepting recyclable material. And guess what? Most of the stuff you put in your recycling bin ended up in China.
Local governments, cities, and waste facilities are awash in recyclable material and the prices have cratered, increasing incentives to divert recyclables straight to the landfill rather than reuse it, or to cancel recycling programs completely.
The companies below are doing their part to address this crisis and build demand for products made from recycled material.
The Onion recently ran a piercingly hilarious “article” about a child entertained for 5 minutes by plastic toy that will take 1,000 years to biodegrade. It is funny because it is a true but depressing observation about the ridiculously wasteful nature of plastic. Who needs a toy that last hundreds of years? Unless that toy is going to be melted down made into something else numerous times.
Enter Green Toys stage left! You can feel good about adding Green Toys’ indestructible construction trucks, bath toys, and other awesome stuff made of recycled milk jugs to your child's toy room. Green Toys has an extensive line of eco-friendly, environmentally sustainable toys made from recycled plastic, mostly made from milk jugs but also yogurt cups and such.
Green Toys makes all of its toys here in the US. They are approaching 60 million milk jugs recycled into new products. If you wanted to you could fulfill all of a child's playroom needs with toys made from recycled plastic with this company. They also use recycled material for their packaging, including recycled cardboard and recycled plastic bottles.
We have their construction truck, as well as numerous other toys from their collection, and we are very satisfied. Their eco-friendly products are constructed of thick plastic, much more solid than most flimsy plastic toys, and our son has been unable to destroy it despite numerous attempts (ha ha, kidding but he plays rough). Of course, Green Toys products can also be recycled at the end of their life, but as I said, these toys are solid and will likely be passed down to multiple families through garage sales and trips to Goodwill.
Preserve might be our favorite company in the recycled products world. You could almost outfit most of your house with Preserve's products. They sell a version of almost every household good you need made of recycled plastic.
We love Preserve for other reasons too. First, we basically share a similar origination story (more about the inspiration behind R&R here). The founder Eric Hudson saw that although Americans were putting ample materials into the recycling stream, it would not get used unless manufacturers used it to make things (of course he figured this out 20 years before us...better late than never though I guess).
Their mission statement, which we love, is “To help reduce the harm caused by the industrial age by demonstrating that consumer products can be both fabulous and lighter on the earth”. This could practically be inserted onto our site, they are like R&R’s soul mate!
Secondly, they partnered with like-minded companies and started their own recycling program, called Gimme 5, so customers could send back their products after they were done with them and Preserve could recycle them again. We have a bag of Preserve toothbrushes sitting in our closet waiting to be recycled right now.
Thirdly, Preserve does an awesome job limiting packaging waste. We were pleasantly shocked how little packaging accompanied their set of four 16 oz. bowls. The four bowls were simply taped together with a small sticker strip. BTW, the sticker had a great slogan on it: "Reuse Forever, or return it and we will." How cool is that?! The world would be a different place, environmentally speaking, if more companies were as thoughtful as Preserve.
Finally, Preserve has an innovative approach that tries to achieve its mission through multiple approaches, not just selling recycled products. They have a cool partnership model where they hook up with other companies, many of them Certified B Corporations, who are trying to do right by the Earth. They even sell other companies’ goods, such as the Chicobags, we are such fans of (also made from recycled plastic, pictured below).
They also started a program called Shareware which seeks to promote the reuse of their products for parties (I cringe when I see all the plastic going straight into the trash at kids' parties). And their site if chock full of facts about the environmental benefits of using recycled material, so you can tell they are true believers in their approach, no greenwashing going on here.
Tegu’s magnetic blocks are awesome, so I would recommend them even if they didn’t have a heart warming and inspiring origination story, use environmentally sustainable practices, and promote recycling and reuse of materials.
The owners, two brothers, started their journey with the question, “Could we create a for-profit company based in Honduras that would foster a positive social impact through its business?” According to the CIA factbook, Honduras is the 170th poorest country in the world. And if you have been watching the news about immigration in the U.S., you should be aware that many of the people from Central America migrating to our country are fleeing unstable conditions in Honduras, among other Central American countries.
Tegu is is focused on creating a beacon of hope, through economic development, fair wages, and stable employment for its 200 employees to catalyze change in Honduras. Plus, Americans, whether they know it or not, owe Hondurans a little help after the less than noble actions that our government has taken throughout Honduran history (it was one of the original banana republics and we've kind of messed around there more recently as well).
The company uses environmentally sustainable practices to harvest the wood for their blocks and other toys, using local hardwood that is abundant in Honduran forests. Also, they will accept their used products, in fact they are pleading with customers (see the bottom of the FAQs) not to throw their blocks away. Tegu will pay the shipping so they can renew their blocks and reuse them rather than having them end up in a landfill.
Finally, their products (we own this collection) are thoughtfully designed and very high quality, a toy that is timeless and will entertain kids and nurture their imaginations for hours on end. A great product that you can feel good about buying for your burgeoning engineers and builders!