BY KATIE - MYGREENPOD, 06 Sept '19

This new subscription service lets you swap instead of shop, helping to divert unloved toys from landfill

This article first appeared in our Restoration Revolution issue of MyGreenPod Magazine, distributed with The Guardian on 06 Sept 2019. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox

In research by the British Heart Foundation, one in five parents admitted their children lost interest in a toy in the first 11 hours of play. With the majority of the nation’s toys made from plastic, this means discarded toys are often sent to landfill in perfect working order.

According to a survey of 2,000 parents, commissioned by toy subscription service Whirli and performed by Sapio Research, parents estimated 23% of toys received were unloved within just one week.

Nigel Phan set up Whirli in a bid to address these very issues. By swapping instead of shopping, kids can find toys they really love and parents can avoid forking out on a toy that never gets played with – or that ends up in the bin.

Reuse and reduce

For safety reasons, toys have a built-in durability that makes them a perfect candidate for ‘reuse and reduce’.Aside from the environmental benefits, it also pays to swap – especially since many toys don’t get much long-term use. A basic Whirli ‘Toy Sack’ subscription gives parents access to toys that would be nine times more expensive if bought brand new. For £9.99 per month you get up to 90 tokens– the equivalent of around £90 to spend. Pricing options go up to £29.99 per month for a ‘Toy Chest’ (270 tokens).

You can browse the extensive options on the Whirli website and select toys your kids really want; when they’ve lost interest the toys are simply swapped for something else. It is a brilliantly flexible service.

Benefits for all the family

A Whirli subscription can help to stem the tide of toys into an already crowded home. It also provides a range of age- and skill-appropriate toys that help with social, emotional and physical development.

‘They’re not bothered about that, though!’, Nigel laughs. ‘They just love seeing the Whirli box arrive and the excitement of unboxing their new set of toys. They also start to understand the concept of swapping and trading – that it’s not just a one-way flow of toys into their home. The idea that another little boy or girl will be thrilled to receive their unwanted toys teaches them about the lifecycle of a toy beyond the life it has had with them.’

Click here to find out why the Whirli toy subscription is a My Green Pod Hero

Catering for all

Whirli sources its toys from all the major and smaller, independent toy manufacturers, and each one meets UK and EU safety standards. The service caters for babies up to seven-year-olds, with the range for older children set to expand as the business grows.

‘We cover all interests’, Nigel explains; ‘pretend play, open-ended play, electronic learning, STEAM, brain games, action figures, dolls, garden toys, ride-ons, fancy dress and many more!’
All toys are cleaned and sterilised thoroughly before being sent out, as well as being checked for safety and missing pieces. After an order has been placed, most toys are dispatched within 24 hours and should take no more than two days to be delivered.

Giving the toys back

The toys don’t all need to be returned at the same time, meaning kids can play with them for as long as they like. ‘There’s nothing worse than prizing a toy away from a reluctant child!’, Nigel tells us, ‘so if a child wants to keep a toy, their parent can either buy it from us for a residual fee equivalent to the diminished value of the toy, or keep it for nine consecutive months and it becomes theirs forever.’

A pre-paid Royal Mail label is included in every Whirli box, along with some resealable tape. For oversized or heavy items, Whirli offers a DPD collection service.

And if a toy is damaged? ‘Firstly, don’t worry’, Nigel says. ‘We know children aren’t always the most careful with toys. We want to reassure parents that normal wear and tear is totally acceptable and a given with young children. Just let us know and we can assess whether the toy is still usable and meets our standards. If not, at most we’ll charge a residual fee equivalent to the diminished value, so parents don’t end up being charged more than the toy’s retail price. For any questions or concerns, our friendly customer service team is always ready to help.’

Whirli is still a young company, but it’s proving a popular choice for parents. As well as decluttering their homes, they’re providing their kids with an ethical stream of toys that will be loved and used again and again.