Spring Cleaning May Be Behind Us, But How Can We Sustainably Dispose of All the Kids’ Stuff?

June 2022

By Zoe Cook-Nadel, Director, Second Chance Toys


With summertime at our doorstep, give yourself a pat on the back if you’ve succeeded in accomplishing the dreaded spring cleaning! After two years of spending a lot of time with our families in the home, we’ve all accumulated A LOT of “stuff”! One of the most challenging parts of decluttering is dealing with the plethora of used kids’ items: outgrown clothing, shoes, sports equipment. And the biggie: outplayed toys. When you need to make space for new gifts and purchases, the biggest challenge is figuring out what to do with our kids’ outgrown items, especially while also keeping sustainability in mind.

The dolls, puzzles, playsets, piles of blocks and bags of racecars can be daunting. As an environmentalist, I believe that the best disposal solution is clear: seek out a way for these items to re-enter back into the realm of use. Reintroducing gently-used items into a circular economy1 can be an incredibly meaningful way to make a positive environmental and societal impact while decluttering your own home

Most all popular toys are made of extremely durable plastic, which allows children many hours of fun and enjoyment.  But from an environmental point of view, these plastic toys, when discarded, have no chance of fully breaking down or bio-degrading during our or our children’s lifetimes. Given the nature of plastic materials, toys often show little signs of wear before they are outgrown. When these “good-as-new” toys are thrown out, they become waste in a landfill, take up a lot of space, and do not disappear.

Hand-in-hand with this wastefulness is the fact that many children in the United States own few or no toys at all. Strikingly, in New Jersey alone, at least 13% of the population under 5 years of age is living in poverty2. Toys are integral to children’s development, helping to promote socialization, creativity, emotional security, motor skills, and learning but due to poverty, many children do not have access to toys at home.

With wasted toys and children in need in mind, Second Chance Toys (SCT) was founded in 2006 by New Jersey high school student Sasha Lipton. In order to combat the local volume of plastic toys being placed into landfills, Sasha and her family spent countless hours collecting, cleaning, and delivering outplayed plastic toys to nearby community organizations serving families in need. Eventually, after a few thousand toys were successfully diverted from landfills, the Second Chance Toys waste-need solution was proving more and more necessary.

Since its inception, Second Chance Toys offers independent community toy drives the option to register and be matched with a vetted recipient organization. To date, Second Chance Toys has collected and diverted almost 400,000 plastic toys (equalling over 1.5 million pounds of plastic) from landfills, and presented them to organizations serving kids in need. 

This network spans across the United States and encompasses over 1,000 approved toy recipient organizations and hundreds of devoted collectors who coordinate successfully recurring local toy drives in their communities year after year. Recipient organizations are all researched to ensure nonprofit status, prior to acceptance into the program, and include homeless shelters, social action centers, low-income preschools, and Title 1 schools. Over the years this web has grown exponentially and continues to spread as a response to increased waste and increased need.

If you have toys to donate or need toys to distribute, there are a few different ways to get involved, including donating directly, organizing a collection, and applying to receive toys for your social action organization. 

Drop-Off Toys

As a homegrown NJ-proud organization, SCT partners with multiple recycling centers throughout New Jersey to offer year-round drop-off. Toys are cleaned, sorted, and packed up twice a year (Earth Month and Holidays) in preparation for delivery to recipients. If you live in Monmouth County, you can find drop-off locations in Holmdel, Eatontown and Middletown. Here is a list of permanent drop-off locations with times and dates when toys are accepted.

Collect Toys

If you’d like to organize a toy drive for your neighborhood, school, house of worship, or with your town’s Green Team, please register to collect during one of our matching seasons (Earth Month or Holiday Season). As you collect toys, the Second Chance Toys team will begin the process of identifying a local matching organization serving kids in need to receive the toys and will help to coordinate for pick-up at the end of your collection period.

Receive Toys

Do you work or volunteer with an organization serving children, families, and new parents in need? In order to receive toy donations please apply directly to be considered for matching. We will contact you to learn more about operations, nonprofit status, services offered and ask about your specific needs.

Corporate Volunteering

Second Chance Toys depends on the hands-on support of corporate volunteers to clean and sort the toys collected at drop-off locations. If you are interested in in-person corporate social responsibility (CSR) or team-building events, Second Chance Toys offers corporations the opportunity to bring a group of volunteers to a recycling center to clean and sort toys. From there SCT’s valued supporter1-800-GOT-JUNK? collects and delivers the toys directly to a matched recipient organization. Such partnership reflects and deepens a corporation’s commitment to the environment and our local youth.

So maybe you haven’t started your 2022 spring cleaning, or you have but still have lots of toys your kids have outgrown? No problem, Second Chance Toys has you covered all year-’round!



1 United States Environmental Protection Agency,National Recycling Strategy. See “What is a Circular Economy?”

2 NJDOH “Complete Health Indicator Report of Children Under Five Years of Age Living in Poverty.” Updated March 24, 2022



Zoe Cook-Nadel is the Director of Second Chance Toys Inc. and an environmentalist and biodiversity lover at heart. After studying Economics at Penn State, she went on to work with kids and families while creating conservation education programs at NJ’s largest zoo. She joined the Second Chance Toys plastic toy diversion mission in 2021. She can be reached at info@secondchancetoys.org.

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