Photo courtesy of Big Toys
I grew up in Arizona. It gets hot here in the summer. Did it stop me from going down that metal slide at the park? Nope. Did it hurt when I went down it? Yep. Did I do it over and over again? Yep. My kids will never know the joy (er, pain) of sliding down a metal slide. Nowadays, nearly every piece of commercial playground equipment that I see has plastic slides. Sure, they still get hot in the summer, but not nearly as hot as the old school metal slides. However, I’ve always wondered if those slides were hiding a more toxic secret — PVC, BPA and other plastic nastiness. The good news is, these slides may actually be better for your kids (and the environment) than you think. There is a definite trend among commercial playground equipment manufacturers to offer more eco-friendly product to their customers. That bright red slide your child goes down every week — it might just be PVC-free. That bridge they walk across to get to the bright red slide — depending on the manufacturer, it may be made out of recycled milk jugs. Take Olympia, WA-based Big Toys, for example. The commercial playground equipment company was founded in 1970 and focuses on offering environmentally friendlier products to its customers. Some of the first pieces of playground equipment made by Big Toys used cast-offs from the plywood industry. The company was able to use byproducts of another manufacturing process to create beautiful cedar playground equipment. Big Toys’ use of 100% post-consumer high-density polyethylene plastic keeps 1.5 million milk jugs out of landfills each year. The company also averages 78% recycled steel in its products, uses Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood that is treated without toxic chemicals and stopped using PVC in its entire product line in 2004. Oh, did I mention that the company also converted to wind power in 2008? Big Toys creates a kid-friendly and environmentally friendly piece of playground equipment, but that’s not all. At the end of the equipment’s life, Big Toys takes it back and recycles it. Again, diverting more waste from local landfills. Big Toys’ reach goes beyond the Pacific Northwest. The company has a worldwide distribution with independent sales representatives across the United States and Canada, as well as faraway countries like India and Thailand. This is just one example of a commercial playground equipment company that is making a product with both the environment and your child’s health in mind. As going green becomes more important to American consumers, we’re sure to see more companies take a sustainable approach to playground manufacturing.