Ethics at play

This classic toy has been reinvented for a modern, sustainable audience

Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod

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Published: 14 February 2022

This Article was Written by: Katie Hill - My Green Pod

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This article first appeared in our ‘Love is all we need’ issue of My Green Pod Magazine, published on 14 February 2022. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox

The UK’s toy market is the largest in Europe, and the fourth largest in the world.

In 2020, we spent a dizzying £3.3 billion on 330 million toys. Many of these toys are made from plastic and can be prime candidates for landfill.

The British Heart Foundation has found that, on average, a child loses interest in a toy within just 36 days, and that there could be as many as 162 million unused toys in UK homes.

The environmental impact of unwanted toys is potentially huge, and something Matt Wright set out to address when he launched his family business, Playpress.

‘We are trying to make something that can compete in the same space as plastic toys’, he tells us – ‘but with a much smaller environmental impact.’

Reinventing an old favourite

Slotted, board-based toys have been around for generations and still have huge appeal, but the shapes can be quite basic; they can feel more like model-building components than a playset.

They tick the sustainability box but can’t compete with plastic when it comes to durability and detail.

Matt’s solution was to take the playset concept we all love and give it a modern makeover. After ‘a lot of trial and error’ he discovered playboard, a composite of sustainable papers and board, sourced directly from a mill that uses only materials from FSC-accredited sustainable forests.

‘Playboard is strong, durable and free from any nasty chemicals’, Matt tells us. ‘The inks are vegetable based and we use water-based glues and varnishes as well. The materials we use keep the detail prominent, which enables a much greater open-play experience and allows deeper discussions between parent and child. The sets also encourage problem solving, dexterity and all the motor skills.’

The packaging converts to a 3D play scene, which supports the mission for Playpress to be a zero-waste company that produces thoughtful pieces that allow kids to play as freely as possible.

‘It’s always incredible to see how imaginatively kids play with the sets’, Matt says. ‘They are really great for making up and telling stories – and learning through hands-on play is what we are all about.’

Bespoke playsets

Matt acknowledges he was lucky to have had lots of Lego and Playmobil toys as a child. ‘They really inspired me’, he tells us. ‘I had an amazing Lego city growing up, but that won’t be available to everyone. I figured we could create our own world with a big focus on sustainability and affordability, so over time children could gradually build a whole Playpress city using their pocket money!’

The bestselling Playpress sets are the Gruffalo, Zog, Dinosaur Roar! and RNLI boat playsets – and the just-launched Shaun The Sheep set looks like a strong candidate for the list.

Playpress-branded toys like the Space, Farm and Animal sets are also selling well. ‘It’s so much fun designing a world when you can make anything’, Matt says. ‘Sometimes we like to take a bit of a risk and just go with something we would love to see.’

Playpress also creates bespoke branded playsets; the first collaborations were with the RNLI and the Science Museum, so those sets will always have a special place in Matt’s heart.

‘We have some exciting projects ahead with the House of Commons and Julia Donaldson’, Matt reveals. ‘We love to work with museums and galleries, so if you have ideas for a product please get in touch!’

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