Commentary: Barbie movie could spark doll sales and all that plastic is not fantastic

American researchers last year quantified what each doll costs the climate. Every 182g doll caused about 660g of carbon emissions, including plastic production, manufacture and transport.

The researchers analysed seven other types of toys, including Lego sets and Jenga. By my calculations, emissions on average across all these types of toys are about 4.5kg per kilogram of toys.

Scaled up, this is considerable. In the US, it’s estimated emissions from the plastics industry will overtake those from coal within seven years.

So the question is, how can we cut our emissions to zero as fast as possible to ensure we and our children have a liveable climate – without putting a blanket ban on plastic toys? After all, toys and entertainment add happiness to our lives.


To date, there has been little focus on making the toy industry more sustainable. But it shouldn’t escape our notice.

Toy manufacturers can – and should – use low carbon materials and supply chains, and focus on making toys easily disassembled. Toys should be as light as possible, to minimise transport emissions. And battery-powered toys should be avoided wherever possible, as they can double a toy’s climate impact and turn a plastic waste problem into an electronic waste problem.

To their credit, some toymakers have cut back on plastic in their packaging, given packaging immediately becomes waste.

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