Discarding life

Speaking of China, we’ve heard in recent days about product recalls of Chinese made toys. What happens to all these recalled toys? Millions of toys are coming back in; where do they go? Are they melted down and recycled into new toys (noting that the reason for recall is lead in the paint; will this lead be removed somehow)? Will they be dumped into a landfill (again, what happens to the lead)? Will they be shipped to some other country that does not note child safety so closely?

(For that matter, what happened to the millions of batteries recalled from mine and similar laptops? Recycled, I hope. What’s going to happen to the millions of mobile phone batteries Nokia recalled this week?)

What happens to all the toys that are just discarded? After a toy’s season has passed and a child loses interest, where does it go to its long home? When I was a child, I wanted all the same action figures and new toys that most every child wanted. But, looking back, I think the toys I appreciated most and enjoyed most were the simple LEGOs or wooden toys (Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys, etc.) that stimulated my imagination. For years, I enjoyed these toys (long after generations of the latest toy had passed its prime).

I don’t think it’s just nostalgia. I wonder if we, as adults, forget that a child doesn’t need a toy that is so fancy and elaborate that there is no need to ascribe any imagination to it. It seems that many toys are so complex that all the play is “explained.”

Beyond this; what are we teaching children about the experience of joy and pleasure? That it is something to be enjoyed in this one thing—and then discarded after a time in favour of something new with more lights and colours? How does this translate life outlook and decisions? I need more and more shiny things; I’ll enjoy this person for a while but then I’ll need someone new; all the discarded parts of my life will just go away—they weren’t well made to begin with and someone else can deal with the debris.

Maybe that’s digging a bit deeper than reality; but—just a thought.