Toy Story: Putting waste to play

–  Sucharita Sen

The inheritance of Indian toys can be traced back from the Harappan civilization where most of the objects were made of stones, shells, metals and waste products. Cut to 2022, we are going back to making interesting toys using waste goods, or reusable products. India has a growing young population with half of the total population under 25 years of age. The demand for toys is also increasing due to strong economic growth and several innovations for the younger population.

The Indian toy has only 20% of market share and 80% of the rest are imported from China, Taiwan, Korea, US and the UK. The ongoing flow of imported toys has forced many to shut shop. The Indian toy industry is facing severe competition and the need of the hour is to make efforts to rejuvenate and save the industry. With the objective of establishing India as a global Toy hub, National Action Plan for Toys (NAPT) 2020 was introduced to promote the Indian toy industry including traditional handicrafts and handmade toys.

How various states are a boosting the toy industry

Jammu & Kashmir is known for its walnut wood carving and paper toys. Punjab makes toys of clay and wood. Rajasthan has been a large source of wooden toys and is also known for dolls made of cloth and soft toys made out of waste materials. The betel nut toys of Rewa in Madhya Pradesh are very popular. While Gujarat deals in terracotta toys, Goa is dealing in toys made from wood, coir and cotton. Daman & Diu is famous for mat weaving craft and tortoise shell toys. Uttar Pradesh and Bihar produce bamboo toys. Kerala utilises coconut palm leaves to make a wide range of eco-friendly homemade and handmade objects.

Parents are concerned about unhealthy toys

Awareness among parents regarding the generation of unhealthy waste in the form of rejected plastic and electronic toys inclines them to move towards purchasing indigenous toys. The Quality Council of India in their report found that 67% of imported toys are unfit and potentially dangerous for children.

Swachh Toycathon

There is a growing demand for toys on one hand and changing patterns of waste generation on the other. Swachh Toycathon is a convergence between the NAPT and Swachh Bharat Mission 2.0 that seeks to explore solutions for use of non-biodegradable or dry waste in creation or manufacturing of toys. The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs will conduct the competition open to students, grown-ups, and start-ups to bring forth innovation in toy designs using dry waste. The competition will seek designs, prototypes or concepts that reimagine efficient designs that can be replicated at a larger scale, toys that comply with minimum safety standards, as well as the aesthetics. Swachha Toycathon will be launched on 26th Sept. and the applications will be accepted till 11th Nov.

The themes for the competition are based on (i)Fun & Learn – Transforming waste material to toys for children can be tools for learning and enjoyment simultaneously. The theme seeks ideas for design and early proto type of toys from waste at home/workplace and surroundings. (ii) Use & Enjoy – Seeking ideas for design and models of games and play in the park/open spaces made from waste. Park can be centre of host of fun and exciting activities like treasure hunt for old toys, having a picnic with upcycled furniture as setting, hosting a photo contest with upcycled artefacts as backdrop, swings of different kinds from old textile and furniture, jump rope from textile and coconut waste etc. (iii) New & Old – Seeking ideas/Solutions/Working models for durable design, reuse of components, for manufacturing of toys by industries.

Sucharita Sen is a writer and journalist, who spent 11 years in active journalism working with various media houses.

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