Tiny Toy Co. provides an environmentally-friendly solution to toy waste. It helps solve a handful of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, including:
Quality Education, through repurposing old toys into new educational games, activities, and materials available for use in classrooms, libraries, and homes.
Gender Equality, through the de-gendering of toys originally marketed towards either boys or girls. Tiny Toy Co. debunks the gender binaries on toys by creating a gender-neutral toy bin and educational materials, and selling the toys as such.
Sustainable Cities and Communities, Responsible Production and Consumption, and Climate Action through promoting the recycling and reuse of old toys as a green alternative to sending the plastics to landfill.
York University- Schulich School of Business
Tiny Toy Co. was founded in 2018 by teacher and librarian Rebecca Saha. The company is based in Toronto, Ontario. The innovation works by collecting toy debris (little bits and pieces of toy waste) from people's homes, classrooms, and all sources across the GTA, sorting, curating, and reusing the tiny toys to make educational games and activities that are used in classrooms, workshops, libraries, and homes. The company also refurbishes great educational games and activities that are missing pieces to try to keep things in use for as long as possible. Tiny Toy Co. is heavily interested in a circular economy aspect for its business: "I will take this garbage and make sure it doesn't stay garbage" says Rebecca Saha about her company's business model.
Some of the tiny toys collected, ready for reuse (left) and a sample educational card (right)
Rebecca Saha shares her inspiration for this innovation: "I have always taught using manipulatives such as tiny objects or toys. I have found that kids learn better with their hands on physical objects rather than traditional lecturing and questioning. I believe that kids need to touch things to make connections. And because I've always taught this way, and I don’t like to buy things new, I started my own collection of little used toys." Saha states that as her own, personal environmentalism has grown in the past decade, she would think "Why is anyone buying new plastic toys when theres so many plastic toys sitting in peoples homes?"
Saha states that she thinks the solution to the environmental crisis we are currently in (particularly in regard to plastics) has to involve reuse. Specifically, the dispersal and disposal of things is a large part of the problem.
The overall impact of Tiny Toy Co.'s innovation can be seen on both a practical, smaller scale, as well as on a larger scale. The practical aspect of the impacts of her business can be seen through an audit she conducted in October 2019. In just a one-month timespan, Tiny Toy Co. diverted 253.6 lbs of toy waste away from landfills through their signature play-based learning activities. In addition, 52.2 lbs of broken toy plastics were sent for recycling with TerraCycle, resulting in only 16 lbs (just 5.9% of what was initially sent to Tiny Toy Co.) being neither reusable nor recyclable and going to landfill.
The larger impact that the company has on its community and the environment revolves around environmental education. Tiny Toy Co. has a number of workshops, public speaking and school events, and features at local festivals that helps do two things: 1. It promotes the importance of a circular economy through upcycling and reuse of previously-loved toys, and 2. It spreads the word about the environmental issues associated with toy waste, such as plastic waste and contamination.
Tiny Toy Co. is helping people rethink how things enter and exit their homes, and stimulates thinking about product end life. Rebecca Saha, owner and founder of Tiny Toy Co., describes her businesses impacts: "The circular economy model is something I want to support and push—I am here to start a conversation."
Rebecca Saha describes her beginning with Tiny Toy Co as an expensive investment: "The start-up of any small business is very costly—incorporating a business, trademarking a name, paying for logo design, choosing and purchasing packaging materials, building the website, and paying for web design all take a huge toll on your pockets. But in order to be transparent and feel solid about what I'm doing with my business, this is what needs to get done, and eventually I know it will pay off." Saha also invested in a TerraCycle recycling container for the toys she receives but cannot use due to the condition or type of toy.
Because Tiny Toy Co. is upcycling old toys for the purpose of creating new educational materials and activities, it has opened up a number of new upcycling educational opportunities such as the company's Re-Loot upcycled loot bags, which is a goodie bag service created within Tiny Toy Co. to reuse toys and bulk treats in loot bags for kids parties and events. This serves as a green alternative to using entirely new products and materials for children's loot bags. The business has also started to have paid workshops, paid public speaking and school events, and being featured at local community festivals.
Rebecca Saha, Founder & Educational Director
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Toronto, Ontario, CA
Business Website: https://tinytoyco.com/
Year Founded: 2018
Number of Employees: 2 to 10
Tiny Toy Co. refurbishes and upcycles toys, redirecting them from landfills back towards play-based learning. The business collects old toys from families across the Greater Toronto Area to upcycle them and give a second life to early learning activities.