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Mattel Expands PlayBack Recycling Program to Fisher-Price

By Gary Symons

TLL Editor in Chief

Mattel’s award-winning PlayBack program has just expanded to now include the company’s line of Fisher-Price toys.

Fisher-Price joins Barbie, MEGA, and Matchbox brands in the toy takeback initiative, which enables families to extend the life of their Mattel toys once they are finished playing with them.

Mattel was awarded the first-ever Licensing Sustainability Award in December, 2021 for the program. The LSA is an award put out as a joint project by The Licensing Letter and the Society of Product Licensors Committed to Excellence (SPLiCE).

PlayBack is designed to recover and reuse materials from old Mattel toys in future Mattel products and keep materials out of landfills. PlayBack supports the company’s goal to achieve 100% recycled, recyclable, or bio-based plastic materials in its products and packaging by 2030.

“The Mattel PlayBack program has been eagerly received by consumers and has provided tremendous learning specific to the durability and disassembly of our products, which will aid in the future design of products made for the circular economy,” said Pamela Gill-Alabaster, SVP Global Head of Sustainability and Social Impact, Mattel. “We are also exploring new technologies in plastic processing and recycling, with our longer-term goal to use materials collected through Mattel PlayBack in future toy production.”

Launched in the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, and the U.K. in 2021, the company celebrates the successful one-year anniversary of the Mattel PlayBack program, which will now include non-electronic Fisher-Price toys including Laugh & Learn, Little People, Imaginext brands, and more. The inclusion of the number one selling Infant, Toddler and Preschool property globally extends the program’s benefits to even more consumers than ever before.

“At Fisher-Price, we design toys to be loved, cherished and passed on from one generation to the next,” said Chuck Scothon, SVP and GM of Fisher-Price Infant and Preschool. “The Mattel PlayBack program, aimed at repurposing these materials into new products and helping the environment, now provides parents and caregivers the opportunity to give these beloved Fisher-Price toys a new lease on life.”

Programs like PlayBack have had a dramatic impact on the licensing and consumer products industries, says SPLiCE CEO Kimberly Kociencki, one of the judges for the Licensing Sustainability Award.

“The judges felt Mattel deserved this award not only due to the amount of materials that will be diverted from the waste stream, but also because the program serves as a roadmap for other companies in the sector,” she said.

Sustainability in Licensing: Funko Adopts Product Recycling Program

For example, the fast food giant McDonald’s (another winner of the LSA) has removed millions of pieces of plastic annually from the global waste stream through changes to its Happy Meals program, swapping out plastic toys for paper products or biodegradable options. Funko, Spin Master and Hasbro are among the other toy companies that have made massive commitments to sustainability programs, particularly in implementing recycling programs or adopting environmentally friendly materials.

To participate in the Mattel PlayBack program, consumers can visit, print a free shipping label, and pack and mail their outgrown Mattel toys back to Mattel. The toys collected will be sorted and separated by material type and responsibly processed and recycled.

For materials that cannot be repurposed as recycled content into new toys, Mattel will either downcycle those materials into other plastic products or convert them from waste to energy.