Who Are Plantoys? The Story Behind the Brand
If you are interested in wooden or sustainable toys, then no doubt you have heard about Plan Toys. For over 30 years plan toys have designed toys with the utmost respect for children & nature, it’s their thing. They specialise in making sure all of their toys have an educational element. But who are they? Who founded them and what has driven them to be synonymous with sustainable play?
Vitool Viraponsavan started Plan Toys. He grew up in Trange, among the rubber trees and saw the trees being wasted once they were no longer producing rubber. The rubber tree industry in Thailand is huge. Thailand has an estimated 3.2 million hectares of rubber tree plantations which produce just under 5 million tons of rubber. It is one of the top rubber producing countries in the world.
The rubber plantation was introduced to Trang, where Plan Toys is based in the early 20th century. It is one of the country’s most important cash crops. However, it can be highly polluting and wasteful. Once the trees no longer produce latex to make rubber (after about 25 years) they are then burned creating huge smoke plumes.
Vitool went to Bangkok to study architecture. It was here he formulated his vision, with friends, to change the world and help make it more sustainable. The 7 friends partnered together and created the Plan Group, from which later developed PlanToys.
The Plan Group is an architectural firm, a publishing house & graphic design studio, a little bit of everything, but everything they do is with the mission to be kind to people and the environment.
PlanToys 40 Year Birthday
In 2021 Plantoys will celebrate being 40 years old. For their anniversary, they are celebrating in the same way and philosophy in which they run their business, by thinking about the environment first! They are celebrating by planning to have new solar panels in their factory.
The 40th anniversary will also be celebrated by opening a play museum to provide children with immersive experiences from learn-through-play activities!
PlanToys & Staff Welfare
Plantoys are an equal opportunities employer, but they are a community employer. Not only do they employ people in their factory, but they also employ people in the surrounding villages as homeworkers to make the clothes for their toys etc.
They also treat their staff incredibly well. I remember the UK distributor telling me how impressed he was when he went on a factory tour with the boss Vitool. Everyone knew Vitool and were smiling and wanting to shake his hands.
More impressively, Vitool knew everyone and it was such a happy working atmosphere. They have created this atmosphere because they think always of their employees and their welfare. Not just in ensuring that they don’t use any toxins in their toy manufacture, but also in the way they treat their staff.
Each day at the PlanToys factory, employees gather around to enjoy lunch together in the large communal lunch hall. The lunch is cooked and any waste food is used to fuel their biomass heater. In the Plantoys factory there is lots of outdoor social areas for their staff including Petanque (bowls) courts and badminton courts which they all play after lunch.
Plastic Reduction for Employees
Plantoys don’t just stop at not using plastic in their toys. They also have banned plastic from their office headquarters in Bangkok and their factory in Trang. They have completely banned foam food containers, plastic bags and other single use cups and plastics. They have given all their employees reusable water bottles and metal straws.
Where Are Plan Toys Made & Are They Sustainable?
Plantoys is a wooden toy manufacturer based in Trang in Southern Thailand. The headquarters are based in Bangkok. They started on 11th June 1981.
Are Plantoys Sustainable?
Plantoys are made from either solid rubber wood or Planwood. The rubber wood is sustainable because it is a waste product of the rubber industry.
The rubber trees left over by this industry were a waste product and were burned creating huge smoke plumes.
The local farmers plant the trees from seedlings. Then wait 5-7 years for them to grow before they can harvest them. The tree stops producing latex after 25 years and traditionally would then have been burned. Once a rubber tree’s product has dropped off, it is cut down and used to ‘smoke’ lower grade rubber to make it slightly higher quality.
However, this leads to huge ‘smoke’ and pollution and it was this process that inspired Vitool, one of the founders of Plantoys, to change things. He had the idea to add value to this wood and to use it to make something rather than just have it burned. Plantoys were the first manufacturer in the world to use this waste rubber wood to make educational wooden toys.
The rubber tree trunks are used for the solid wood toys. To keep the wood pure for toys for children, no fertiliser is used in the soil 3 years prior to plantoys using it. They then use a kiln dry process to dry the wood, without any chemicals and make it stronger.
Factory Waste & PlanWood
Plan toys are made in their own manufacturing facility in Trang and all of their materials come from within 30km of their factory and nothing, no nothing is wasted!
During the process of production they have a lot of sawdust. This sawdust came from the turning, sawing and sanding processes used in the manufacture of the toys. The waste sawdust from the factory is used to make their own material PlanWood which is made using their sawdust waste and e-zero glue.
Using their own patented formula they make super durable, waterproof toys from their own waste product. So the waste product, of the waste product is used! Sustainability in it’s finest form! Rather than see all this sawdust wasted, they innovated and created a new form of material.
The planwood is more durable than rubberwood allowing Plantoys to extend their product line. It’s also waterproof meaning that Plantoys can now create bath toys, a new specialty for them. They are the only manufacturer of wooden toys which can be used and played with in water.
Nothing is wasted in the Plan Toys factory. Everything is transformed in the factory and made into something, even the tree’s roots! The roots and other wood pieces which cannot be used to make toys are converted into biomass energy in their factory.
Plantoys E-Zero glue
For the rubber wood toys, they do not use any chemical processes or treatment to make the toys. The adhesive that they use is called E-Zero glue and contains 0% formaldehyde, is derived from plants and doesn’t contain harmful chemicals.
What exactly is formaldehyde? Formaldehyde is a colorless, strong-smelling gas used in making building materials and many household products. Unfortunately, exposure to formaldehyde has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory test animals and is used in most wood glues but not by Plantoys!
Are plantoys non toxic?
Yes! Their motto is Sustainable Play, Better Toys, Better World. Plan Wooden toys are synonymous with sustainable safe play and there are several reasons why.
- They only use waste rubberwood in making their toys and for three years before they use the wood they insist no fertilisers are used on the trees.
- The toys are glued with E-Zero glue which is plant based, natural & free from formaldehyde. E-Zero organic glue is environmentally-friendly and produced from plant derivatives. Normally glue used in woon products is made with chemicals and formaldehyde by-products.
- The paints they use are non toxic water based colours and organic pigments making them nice and safe should babies start chewing them.
- The rubber wheels etc are local materials as well. During the first span of its life, the rubber tree absorbs carbon dioxide and produces latex as nature intended. We then use the latex to produce rubber for some parts of our toys, such as wheels on a racecar!
Plantoys create toys which are durable, even for not so careful boisterous toddlers and toys which can be safely put in babies mouths.
Plan Toys Packaging
Plan toys don’t just stop at the manufacturer of their toys. They look at the environmental impact of all of their process not least their packaging. All of their paper packaging is made from recycled paper. In your plantoys box you might also find a ‘reused packaging’ sticker as well as they try and reuse as much as they can and incorporate sustainable practices in every way possible!
All of the printing on their packaging is made from soy based ink which is natural and non toxic.
The inside of the packaging is just as important as the boxes. They place their wooden toys inside of brown bags within other packing to protect them from shaking around or breaking. A fabric bag is also included with some of our pretend-play toys and alphabet toys to encourage safe storage and tidying up after play!
They also now include dividers between each of their toys and parts so they fit in the packaging without being damaged. In order to reduce waste, we now take paper from old packaging boxes that haven’t been manufactured and use it for new packages. All of their packaging is plastic free!
Plan Toys Carbon Footprint
Plantoys go a step further than any other toy manufacturer. Knowing carbon footprint to be hugely important they now calculate the amount of greenhouse gas that is released during the transition from their factory’s gate to the distributors’ warehouse.
They keep track of all of their footprint so they work on reducing their impact on the environment!
Plantoys also only use local materials in their toy manufacture. 73% of the materials used come from a 30 km radius around their factory in Trang.
The Plantoys new packaging (from 2020 onwards) comes with a carbon footprint sticker. This sticker displays the amount of greenhouse gas that is released in each toy’s production. Whilst this will not include distance travelled to the toy shop and from the toy shop to your home, it’s a huge benefit to show this information and remind us of our own carbon footprints.
Toys made by Plan Toys are safe and non-toxic. These amazing playsets conform to international toy standards.
How Do You Clean Your Plantoys?
When you have Plan Toys wooden toys, you can’t just chuck them in the dishwasher to clean, they need a bit more care. But with a bit of love they will last years.
Here we go through the top tips on how to look after your plan toys wooden toys and tell you what the material planwood is!
If your plantoys are made from solid rubber wood then please following the following instructions:
- When your child finishes playing with their plantoys wooden toy, then simply use a damp cloth to wipe their toys down. Then to dry the toy off, before you put it away, use a dry cloth or towel to dry. It is important to ensure wooden toys are completely dry before you store them away.
- You don’t need to use any chemical cleaners on your wooden toys, and strong chemical cleaners may damage your toys. Also, they may leave toxins and residue on a toy which your child then puts in your mouth. There are plenty of natural alternatives which are safe and non toxic like apple cider vinegar which can be used. We recommend making up a mixture of vinegar, water and maybe an essential oil and keeping it in a spray bottle, handy to use whenever you need to.
- If you have any of the Plantoys made from Planwood then you cans wash them up normally but it is not recommended to put them in a dishwasher. Further you should not leave planwood toys soaking for long periods in water.
For General Care of your toys we recommend the following care instructions:
- Keep toys – especially ones that contain rubber parts – in a dry environment, and avoid high temperatures and direct sunlight.
- Examine your toys regularly to ensure that they are in good condition. Look for any toys which may have cracks etc and remove them if they are dangerous.
- For water toys, do not soak them in water for over 24 hours. Use a clean cloth to wipe them dry after playing and then set them in a neutral environment to continue drying.
- Never store toys with food remains on, it will turn to mould.
What is Plantoys Planwood?
Planwood is a Plantoys patented own material. It is made from their waste sawdust and their e-zero plant based glue. Planwood originated from their desire to improve their employees’ health and hygiene.
They noticed that there was always a lot of sawdust leftover from toy production and it was being wasted.
This went against the ethos of what Plan Toys is about, using every bit of material and having no waste. Sawdust is created from the manufacturing processes like sanding etc. But now it is 100% reused in the factory and has created a super durable, waterproof material. Because of its water resistance and flexibility, we can create wooden water toys and design uniquely-shaped products
Every bit of the tree is used by Plantoys. Even the roots! The roots are ground down and made into wood pellets which generates clean green electricity for their factory and all the surrounding villages.
Biomass Gasification Power Plant
At PlanToys, we turn food waste from their staff canteen into biogas, which is a renewable energy that is environmentally-friendly. The biogas is used to cook the staff meals, and any waste is used.. To make biogas… it’s a never ending cycle of reuse!
Plan Toys Reforestation Program
An important aspect of the Plantoys sustainability is reforesting their local area. Each year the Plan Group employees gather to plant new trees in the local forests. So far they have planted over 50,000 trees.
They call this their reforestation programme and it is just one programme they do as part of their social and environmental commitments to their staff and the community they are based in. Everything about plantoys is based on the philosophy of being sustainable and being environmentally friendly and reducing their impact on our planet.
Eco-friendly Work Environment
Another vital aspect of the plantoys philosophy is looking after their employees. They are an equal opportunities employer but they also ensure their employees enjoy a high quality of life.
The PlanGroup co-operative shop allows their staff to buy produce at well below market prices. They offer their staff interest free loans and also offer extra employment and training for those staff who want to earn extra income.
They also help their staff farm organically and provide organic produce for their own families. This is part of their sustainability programme but also just wanting to create a happy workforce. The PlanGroup believes having a happy motivated workforce boosts productivity and therefore profit.
Best 5 Educational Plan Toys
PlanToys pay close attention to toy design so children can experience growth physically, emotionally, socially and intellectually while playing. Their toys encourage children to grow up to be intelligent, curious and strong-willed individuals!
They believe this starts with even the most simple forms of play and learning, learn through play. The Plantoys motto is Better Kids better world, and everything they do in their toys is designed to help kids get better, because when we invest in children, we invest in a brighter, better world.
Plantoys make toys which allow childrens imagination to develop. They design toys that children can use and enjoy with their parents, or on their own. They put positive thoughts into their toy making. No toy weapons or any other toy which might make them accustomed to violence or be used to hurt other children. There piggy banks are also there to educate children about the value of money and savings. Plan toys create savings cooperatives to support their employees and their families. They are also a full equal opportunities employer.
Because children learn so much through play, it’s important that we give them the chance to do so whenever possible! Whether they are playing in the backyard during the summertime or at the kitchen table while it’s snowing outside, children gain so much understanding of the world around them through free play.
With all that said, trying to narrow down the best to just 5 is pretty much an impossible task!
Plan Toy Bees
This is by far the most popular plan toys in our shop and indeed one of our most popular toys all around. It is brilliant for fine motor skills, co-ordination and colour matching. The little bees have such a personality that all children find themselves drawn to them! The little bees are very hardwearing and keep children happy for ours!
Plan Toys Rainbow Alligator
Not an obvious educational toy but this toy improves tactile sensory skills and builds strong observance and dexterity skills. This is a great present for a younger child and the click clack noise it makes allows children to learn cause and effect.
Plan Toys Nesting Chicken
This is a gorgeous stacking toy which includes a base, 3 bowls with happy smiling chicken faces on and an egg. The bowls can be nested in lots of different ways teaching children about balance and problem solving in a very fun way. This toy really helps to improve concentration and communication and is just great fun!
Plan Toys Balancing Cactus
This toy has won numerous Best Toy Awards and it’s easy to see why. It comes with a plant base and lots of different sizes and colours of cactus leaves. The child needs to learn to balance all the leaves on the base and this can be done in various ways. Whilst helping with dexterity and balancing the beauty of this is that it teaches basic maths sums as wells, without a child realising it.
Plan Toys Mosaic
This toy comes in a little tin case so is a perfect travel toy. It comes with lots of different geometric pieces and a guide book in how to make up various patterns. But older children can soon develop their own patterns and pictures using the shapes. A brilliant toy for travel as well as boosting creativity and imagination.