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Ireland’s first Digital Toy Library launched

24 Jun 2024
Pictured is Padraig O’Connell and his son Lucas who is living with Cystic Fibrosis at a toy swap event in Carrigaline Park to mark the launch of Ireland’s first digital toy library. aims to revolutionise the way families and children access toys in communities across Ireland. Picture: Clare Keogh
  • Digital Toy Library to offer free way for families to donate and find toys.
  • Toys pose a significant risk to the environment in their design, production, and life cycle.
  • 80% of all toys end up in landfills, incinerators or oceans.

An innovative digital Toy Library which aims to revolutionise the way families and children access toys has been launched. Ireland’s first digital toy exchange library aims to tackle the increasing problem of toy waste and make playtime more sustainable and accessible for all children.

Led by a researcher at University College Cork (UCC), The Toy Library offers a free way for families to refresh toy collections without spending money and reduce waste by giving unwanted toys a new lease of life.

While many toys still offer benefits after normal use and wear and tear, 80% of all toys end up in landfills, incinerators or the ocean. Research has shown that an estimated 5.5m plastic toys are lost and discarded in Ireland each year, with that figure far higher in other countries.

The toy industry uses 40 tonnes of plastic for every US$1 million it generates in revenue and has an excessive carbon footprint. The toy industry is the most plastic-intensive industry in the world.

Most toys are most are made from non-biodegradable, petroleum-based plastics, leading to waste that persists in the environment for hundreds of years. Annually, 60 million Barbie dolls are sold, contributing emissions equivalent to burning 381 million gallons of gasoline.

The Toy Library is designed to provide a sustainable and cost-effective solution to help reduce the waste problem of toys for families, local authorities and communities across Ireland.

Sustainable and accessible play for all

The Toy Library invites families to share, swap or find toys via a free online platform – Families can list a pre-loved toy and give it to another child or find a toy to give to their child.

The Toy Library supports families to freely source and share toys, ensuring that children have continuous access to exciting and sustainable play experiences while reducing the environmental impact and expense of purchasing new toys.

Giorgia Anile, Founder and Director of The Toy Library and PhD student in Human Computer Interaction, funded by SFI ADVANCE CRT, at UCC School of Applied Psychology, said: “We’re striving to create a future where children can explore, learn, and grow through play, all while protecting the environment for generations to come. By sharing toys within our communities, The Toy Library aims to tackle a significant waste problem while fostering a culture of sharing and generosity.”

“We believe that by teaching children to take good care of their toys, give them away when they're no longer needed, and experience the joy of sharing, we can make a positive impact on the planet. We are so excited to launch and introduce the Toy Library to families across Ireland. We encourage families to log on to and explore some of toys already available, and to sign up to share your unwanted toys in your own community,” Giorgia said.

The environmental impact of toys

Dr Maria Kirrane, Head of UCC’s Sustainability and Climate Action Office and advisor on the Toy Library, said: “When considering the environmental impact of toys, it goes far beyond the toy ending up in a landfill. The environmental impact of plastic toys is created throughout the manufacturing process, across packaging, transportation, and marketing. The scale of the plastics industry’s greenhouse gas emissions is staggering, with plastics on track to produce more climate change emissions than coal-fired power plants by 2030.”

“UCC's Sustainability and Climate Action Plan includes an ambitious target to become a Zero Waste certified campus by 2030. The Toy Library and its mission is an excellent example of how zero waste ambitions can become a reality.”

The Toy Library is a social enterprise supported by Rethink Ireland, CESCA, Cork City Council through a waste prevention grant, Local Enterprise Office South Cork and Consortia Co.

University College Cork

Coláiste na hOllscoile Corcaigh

College Road, Cork T12 K8AF