Children’s author Horatio Clare is calling for magazine publishers such as Egmont to stop giving away plastic toys, saying the amount of non-disposable plastic used in their giveaways amounts to 3,000 tonnes every year.
Clare said all the big-selling children’s magazines come with what he calls “toy tat” such plastic animals and dinosaurs, stethoscopes or plastic tiaras and vanity cases - all of which are played with only fleetingly by the child before ending up in landfill.
“The content in many of these magazines is terrific, designed to support early years learning, giving help with shapes, spelling, figures, puzzle solving, word searches, spotting the difference, facts about nature, and they print lots of very enjoyable stories,” he told The Bookseller. “The problem is that all the big sellers come loaded with toy-tat. It's the worst kind of disposable plastic, designed only to catch the eye.”
Clare has looked at a list of UK magazine sales for the first half of 2017 published by Press Gazette and said most of the publications on the list, including CBeebies Special (Immediate Publishing), Toybox (also Immediate) and Peppa Pig Bag of Fun (Redan Publishing), are sold with at least one free toy.
“You can get up to 11 free gifts [per magazine] but call it three on average. That’s three million plastic throwaways a week and 150 million a year,” he said. “At 20 grammes of plastic, which is about right, you get three million kilos, or 3,000 tonnes. It's a heck of a figure, and I think a very conservative estimate.”
Clare has contacted Redan and Immediate, along with Egmont (which publishes magazines such as Disney Princess and Fireman Sam), CBeebies magazine and National Geographic Kids. "Egmont, CBeebies and National Geographic asked for my email and promised to respond, with Egmont saying the issue was 'top of its agenda', Clare said.
His campaign is being supported by Authors4Oceans, The Sailors' Society, Society of Children's Book Writers Ireland and authors such as Robert Macfarlane, Jackie Morris, M G Leonard, Amy Litptrot, Helen Mort, Andrew MacMillan, Dan Richards, Melissa Harrison, Patrick Gale, Amanda Craig and Piers Torday.
“I started doing this because I am one of millions of parents who buy my child magazines, and one of billions of people around the world who know the plastic tide has gone too far - it poisons the seas, the land, animals and people,” he said. “The tat is equivalent to 50 elephants or 10 fully-laden jumbo jets made of broken and useless plastic that parents don't want, children don't need and the planet can't afford, heading for the soil, the oceans and the food chain.”