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Choose battery-free and non-electronic toys

By Jennifer Spero |
The production of microchips and batteries requires an enormous amount of resources, and their disposal creates an environmental hazard as dangerous chemicals can leach into the soil from these toys.

Battery-free or non-electronic toys do not require the use of batteries and do not contain microchips. They're the old-fashioned way to entertain your baby and offer several important eco-advantages to battery-powered, mechanical toys.

Find it! Battery-free and non-electronic toys

Need a little help deciphering which battery-free toys are the most fun and age-appropriate? Check out this general Best Child Toys guide. Those looking to entertain teenage boys will find help in this Top Ten Non-Electronic Toys For Preteen Boys which gives loads of great non-electronic, battery-free toy ideas for even the toughest crowd.

Once you've expanded your definition of battery-free toys, check out these great eco-friendly toy vendors:

Choosing battery-free and non-electronic toys helps you go green because…

  • Electronic toy production requires a large quantities of resources.
  • The production of microchips used in electronic toys creates hazardous waste.
  • When electronic toys are thrown into landfills, toxic chemicals from their circuit boards leach into the soil, contaminating water and soil.
  • Batteries leach lead, mercury, and other toxic chemicals when disposed of in landfills, and release toxics into the air when incinerated.

According to the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, electronic toys can be made from more than 1,000 toxic chemicals and metals.[1] The production of microchips used in electronic games requires an enormous amount of resources. To make about 240 microchips, it takes 3,200 cubic feet of bulk gases, 22 cubic feet of hazardous gases, 2,275 gallons of deionized water, 20 pounds of chemicals, and 285 kilowatt hours of electrical power. Producing these microchips also creates a substantial amount of hazardous waste, including 25 pounds of sodium hydroxide, 2,840 gallons of waste water, and seven pounds of other hazardous waste.[2]

Disposing of electronic games can also be an environmental hazard. Chemicals from circuit boards, like lead and brominated fire retardants, leach into the soil at garbage sites, and substances like mercury and arsenic are released into the environment when electronic toys are burned in smelters.[2][3] Lead, mercury, cadmium, and fire retardants do not break down in the environment and are bio-accumulative toxins (PBTs), which means that they accumulate in the fatty tissues in humans and other animals.[3]

More than 3 billion pounds of batteries are purchased each year in the United States, and the average person throws out eight batteries per year.[4] When these batteries end up in landfills, mercury, cadmium, lead, and other chemicals can leach from them, contaminating the soil.[2] Eighty-eight percent of the mercury and about half of the cadmium in the municipal solid waste stream comes from dry cell batteries.[4] When incinerated, the heavy metals in batteries vaporize into the air, and rain down to pollute lakes and streams.[4]

Related health issues

Lead damages the human nervous systems, blood systems, kidneys, and reproductive systems, and has been shown to have serious negative effects on brain development. Cadmium is a toxin that has irreversible effects on human kidneys. Mercury causes damage to the organs, including the brain and kidneys, and is especially dangerous to fetuses and newborn children. PBTs have been linked to cancer, nerve damage, and reproductive problems[3]


  • sodium hydroxide: A manufactured substance, in crystalline solid form, designed to absorb moisture from the air. It can cause burns and severe irritation of the respiratory system when inhaled, and is suspected to cause cancer.[5]
  • brominated fire retardants: Halogenated organic fire retardants. The most common type of fire retardant, the toxicity of which is still under investigation, though several types are no longer used due to documented poisonings.[6]
  • bio-accumulative toxins (PBTs): PBTs are toxic chemicals that persist in the environment over time and accumulate up the food chain. They transfer easily among air, water and land, making them a dangerous contaminant. They pose serious risks to both human health and ecosystems.[7]

External links


  1. Children's Health Environmental Coalition - Toxic Toys? Electronics
  2. The Green Guide - Toys
  3. BBC - Hazards of e-waste in Ghana
  4. Environment, Health and Safety Online - Battery Recycling and Disposal Guide for Households: Environmental Hazards of Batteries
  5. Agency For Toxic Substances and Disease Registry - ToxFAQs䋢 for Sodium Hydroxide
  6. Environmental Health Perspectives - Brominated Flame Retardants: Cause for Concern?
  7. US Environmental Protection Agency - About PBTs
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