I don’t mean to cast any aspersions on the Chinese as a people in saying what follows but the quality of their plastic toys is, shall we say by way of example, not quite up to the standard of the build quality of a Swiss Army Knife. The problem I think is not in the materials used but rather in the assembly process where it would appear that wheels are attached to cars with butterfly kisses and propellers to planes with cooked grains of rice.
Actually it makes perfect sense when you think about it. They’re a demure people as a group and live in a highly regimented society. The one-child policy also lends itself to creating peaceful little tripod families of a mom, a dad and an only child. Imagine play time in the average working class home; parents doting on the child in gentle tones, a few toys lying about that are played with quietly and respectfully, some soothing traditional music wafting in the background. I imagine Chinese made plastic toys brought into these environments would last quite a long while – their build quality notwithstanding.
The same scene in virtually any other household on the planet would involve at least two children bashing Chinese made plastic toys into other Chinese made plastic toys. The lifespan of a plastic toy in this situation is more often than not, one or two days beyond the day the packaging it arrived in was thrown away. In point of fact, the toy and it’s packaging will probably end up in the same garbage bag.
So the toys don’t last, but that does not mean they aren’t made from a collection of non divisible plastic parts that are virtually indestructible in their own right. The acid test for this is to stand on a toy in the middle of the night while barefoot. You’ll find that the toy immediately collapses into its smaller individual parts and these then embed themselves as deeply into the sole of your foot as birthday candles pushed into a chocolate cake. Except there’s much less call for the use of choice four letter English words when you plant the candles.
The broken toys, that are not thrown away almost immediately, will begin to coalesce into a great mound of incomplete plastic memories of toys with very little use at all, much like the tupperware drawer in the kitchen which is full of nothing but mismatched containers and lids.
Their fate is then sealed.
When we recycle the toys without wheels or limbs or doors, I like to imagine that there is a chance, however slight, that the toys will be binned together at the recycling centre with others that have suffered the same fate. Might they not then possibly find the lost parts of themselves and complete the hoolahoop of life among friends?
I think another circle that could be completed in this space is the Chinese toy making industry getting into plastics recycling.