Mattel Launches Toy Buyback Program

Toy maker Mattel has launched a new toy buyback program that aims to extend the life of toys and improve recycling of its products.
Mattel building

The program, Mattel PlayBack, aims to recover and reuse materials from old Mattel toys for future products. The 76-year-old company, which boasts well-known toy brands such as Barbie, has stated a goal to reach 100% recycled, recyclable or bio-based plastic materials across all products and packaging by 2030.

Executive Summary

Mattel is the latest company to launch a sustainability initiative, following the lead of other major apparel and footwear companies. Nike and lululemon announced apparel and footwear buyback programs designed to fuel resale, or recommerce, offerings by the companies. While both launched their programs under the guise of sustainability, the recommerce markets also enable Nike and lululemon to recapture some revenue for resale products across secondary markets.


The program also reflects a growing consumer desire to reduce waste and carbon footprints as consumers are increasingly looking for more sustainable packaging and products. 

Mattel’s program enables families to print off a free shipping label and pack and mail their outgrown Mattel toys to be collected and sorted. The toy company is already producing toys made from recycled materials, including:

  • Fisher-Price Rock-a-Stack and Fisher-Price Baby’s First Blocks, made from bio-based plastics 
  • three MEGA Bloks sets made from bio-based plastics
  • UNO Nothin’ But Paper, the first fully recyclable UNO deck without cellophane packing materials 

“Mattel toys are made to last and be passed on from generation to generation,” Richard Dickson, president and chief operating officer of Mattel, said in a statement. “A key part of our product design process is a relentless focus on innovation, and finding sustainable solutions is one significant way we are innovating. Our Mattel PlayBack program is a great example of this, enabling us to turn materials from toys that have lived their useful life into recycled materials for new products.”  

The mailed back products are sorted by material type to be recycled and processed. Materials that cannot be recycled will be converted into energy or downcycled, the company said. Mattel will accept Barbie, Matchbox and MEGA toys for recycling with other brands to be added in the future.

“At Mattel, we are committed to managing the environmental impact of our products,” said Pamela Gill-Alabaster, Mattel’s global head of sustainability. “The Mattel PlayBack program helps parents and caregivers ensure that materials stay in play and out of landfills, with the aim to repurpose materials as recycled content in new toys. It is one important step we’re taking to address the growing global waste challenge.”

The company also recently announced its “Drive Toward a Better Future”program, which aims to make all Matchbox die-cast cars, playsets and packaging with 100% recycled, recyclable or bio-based plastic materials by 2030.

The Mattel PlayBack program will first be available in the U.S. and Canada, with extensions to France, Germany and the U.K. through third-party recycling partners.