June 12, 2019 – The 2019 U of T Sustainability Innovation Prize winners Circular Toys, SoluSave, and STP Sports who each received $5,000 to develop their idea further (Photo by Perry King)

Three teams were named winners of the first-ever University of Toronto Sustainability Innovation Prize: SoluSave, a startup that seeks to recycle solvents used in undergraduate laboratories; STP Sports, which aims to reduce the environmental footprint of professional sporting events; and Circular Toys, a company that asks families, schools and individuals to subscribe to eco-friendly toy packages.

Circular Toys, Incubated at ICUBE, is led by Daniel McKee and Lisa Pooley. The Startup provides subscribers with eco-friendly toy packages every three months.  Clients are also given a chance to send used toys back, reducing waste and plastics present in the environment.

Daniel McKee of Circular Toys, provides subscribers with eco-friendly toy packages every three months, but also allows them to be returned (photo by Perry King)

“There’s such a short lifespan of toys that aren’t environmentally friendly and recyclable, and it isn’t reasonable to refurbish them,” said McKee, a nursing student who says the toys will be targeted to children aged one to seven.

The average family has 71 toys per household and about 90 per cent of them are plastic – nearly 10 per cent of which can’t be recycled, according to McKee. Circular Toys, by contrast, proposes to create an avenue for families looking to reduce waste and provide safer toy options for their children. Furthermore, the toys themselves are meant to stimulate the child’s mind and encourage teamwork.

Circular Toys plans to boost its marketing resources as the startup launches in August. The goal is to amass 100 subscribers in the near term – the equivalent to 3.5 tons of plastic that would otherwise reach oceans and landfills.

The University of Toronto Sustainability Innovation Prize aims to recognize, reward and accelerate the U of T’s most innovative sustainability ideas. The competition, held on June 12 at U of T’s ONRamp co-working space for startups, is an initiative of the President’s Advisory Committee on the Environment, Climate Change, and Sustainability, which laid out a plan last year to incorporate sustainable ideas and practices into U of T’s operations.