pool-toy-recycling.jpg When summer arrives it is hard to resist the urge to stock up on pool toys: foam noodles, fancy floating lounge chairs, life jackets and other flotation devices designed to keep the kids safe. But, when fall rolls around, and those toys are broken or the kids are no longer interested, it can be hard to find a place to recycle all those unwanted toys. Most toys, especially those made of plastic, are difficult or impossible to recycle. Pool toys are no exception. But there are some options for creatively reusing them, and we have a couple suggestions for recycled pool toys that will get next summer off to a greener start.

How to recycle inflatable pool toys

From water wings, to beach balls, to lounge chairs, floating pool toys typically have one thing in common: They are not recyclable. Almost all of them are made of polyvinyl chloride (also known as PVC, or by the recycling number 3), which is one of the hardest plastics to recycle. It is also one of the most dangerous plastics to use, as it is full of chlorine and heavy metals and is a known human carcinogen. Many people toss inflatable pool toys because they have sprung a leak and do not float anymore. Some of them can be patched; in fact, you can probably patch them using scraps from another nonreusable pool toy made of the same material. Barring that, unless your community has a recycler that specializes in PVC, you will have to throw these toys away.

How to recycle foam pool noodles

Foam noodles are popular pool toys for kids and grown-ups alike. They are made from polyethylene foam, and there is no good way to recycle them. However, there are plenty of ways to repurpose them, even if they have sustained some wear and tear. Foam noodles are great for leveling children’s car seats. Stuff them in purses or boots to help them keep their shape when you are not using them. Pinterest offers lots of ideas for reusing noodles, including cutting them up to make “ball pits” for kids to play in.

How to recycle children’s swimming pools

Children’s swimming pools are made of various kinds of plastic (often PVC) and also cannot be recycled. If you have a reusable kiddie pool, think about other uses for it. The blog Apartment Therapy has several suggestions, including turning it into a sandbox or using it as the pit portion of your foam noodle ball pit. Or, if your kids have simply outgrown the tiny pool, check to see if a friend or neighbor might want to use it for their children.

How to recycle life vests

Life vests important tools for keeping kids (and adults who cannot swim) safe in the swimming pool. There are no companies that recycle life vests, although there are plenty of organizations that will use vests that are still in good shape. Check with your local fire department, search-and-rescue program or any nonprofit that helps get children involved in water sports. To avoid having a pile of life vests you need to recycle at some point, see if you can borrow life jackets from a friend or local charitable organization. The Boat U.S. Foundation has a life jacket loaner program in many communities around the U.S. Visit the organization’s website to view its interactive map and see if there is a location near you.

How to recycle plastic pool toys

Rubber duckies, boats and other plastic toys can be as fun in the pool as they are in the bathtub. Things like water cannons, dive rings and floating basketball hoops are guaranteed to keep the kids entertained for hours. But all these toys are typically made with hard plastics that are tough to recycle, giving you few options but to toss them in the trash at the end of their usable life. If your pool toys are still in good condition, chances are someone else would like them. Post them on Craigslist or Freecycle, snap a picture and ask friends on Facebook if they can use them or add them to your next garage sale.

Buy pool toys made from recycled plastic

There are some options for pool toys made from recycled plastic. Green Toys makes sea planes, tug boats and lots of other toys that kids can use in the pool or the bathtub. They are made from 100% recycled plastic (typically milk cartons) and are free of BPA, phthalates and other toxins. Zoë b Organic makes beach toys from corn byproducts rather than plastic. Although they are not meant for swimming pools, the cups and strainers could provide young children with plenty of entertainment in the water. You also do not have to buy a bunch of fancy pool toys. Try making your own with (easy-to-recycle) common household items. A blog post on PoolCenter.com, which sells pool supplies, offers several ideas. Make buoys from soda bottles, cute animal cutouts from bits of craft foam and even paper boats from junk mail.