Sustainable material for playful learning

After a year and a half of alternate school attendance or home schooling, an increasing number of classes are being held face-to-face in classrooms again. Parents have to help their children catch up on or deepen certain subjects at home. For stationery retailers, it is therefore worth examining whether they want to extend their range to include learning materials. Some of the items on the market for playful learning are not only sustainable from a teaching and learning point of view, they are also sustainable in terms of the materials from which they are made.

Building with bioplastic blocks

The "eKubo" building blocks from Italian manufacturer eKoala are produced from bioplastic. According to eKoala, this in turn is made from renewable raw materials such as corn, beetroot, and a type of grass called switchgrass. Visually, the material could easily be confused with oil-based plastic but, according to the manufacturer's indications, it is non-toxic and biologically degradable, and therefore compostable.

Austrian manufacturer Bioblo is also focusing on special environmentally friendly materials in order to stem the flood of single-use plastic in children's playrooms. If the child loses interest in the Bioblo woodchip construction blocks and reusable cups at the end of their life-cycle, these can be returned to the manufacturer free of charge in order to be transformed into new blocks.

Maths and physics materials from recycled plastic

Wissner is a German family-owned company that has been producing learning materials for schools and kindergartens worldwide for more than 45 years. The home schooling made necessary by the pandemic led to a greater demand from parents on social media (#coronaeltern) for learning materials that would help them to school their offspring. Wissner therefore reached out to end-users directly with its sustainable learning materials. Besides products made from RE-WOOD®, the range also includes products made from RE-Plastic®, including learning clocks, counting chips and fraction sets. According to the manufacturer, these are made from 100% reusable polystyrene that comes from post-industrial waste and is recycled on site. As RE-Plastic® can keep being transformed forever, these learning materials allow the recycling loop to be kept going continuously, effectively and responsibly, explains Wissner.

Building with discarded plastic bottle tops

French manufacturer Clip it offers colourful building materials under the same name that are made from plastic bottle tops. Once mounted on bottles of milk, juice or water, they now aim to inspire children to become master builders – while at the same time learning about how recycling can work. The recycled bottle tops can be connected to flat 2D-structures and 3D-figures with clips that have also been recycled from old caps, explains the manufacturer.

Hands-on geometry made from recycled plastic

Swiss manufacturer Geomagworld SA makes it possible to grasp two-dimensional school geometry – quite literally. With the Geomag construction kits, children can create 3D structures of different shapes out of magnetic rods, spheres and plates. According to the manufacturer's information, the "Classic Recycled" collection is made from 100% recycled plastic.

Experiments in renewable energy – including upcycling of single-use waste

Manufacturer 4M offers an entire range of science kits that invite children into the world of physics. Faced with a huge shortage of skilled workers for the impending energy transition (article in German), it is never too early to start training future energy transitioners. The "Eco Engineering Solarauto" science kit provides the ingredients for a vehicle powered via solar panel and which therefore does not need any fossil fuels or batteries, just solar energy. The budding eco-engineer is responsible for sourcing the body of the solar-powered car themselves – an empty drinks can, upcycled especially. For other science kits in the 4M range, the children will need empty plastic bottles. This allows them to learn about sustainable handling of raw materials in terms of the circular economy.

Tips for retailers


When buying learning materials made from plastic, watch out for the "flustix recycled" combined seal from Flustix and DIN Certco, which aims to provide consumers DIN-verified certainty about regranulates and the actual recycled content of the product.

About the author

Freelance organic journalist and #motherof4 Doreen Brumme blogs at about an organic lifestyle for work, school and family.

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