08 Nov 2018
Kfar Saba, Israel
Resource efficiency and sustainable waste management

As the holidays approach, many kids around the globe are scribbling down what they want from Santa. What “Santa” fails to foresee is the booming toy industry topping $20 billion in the US alone, in 2016, with much of these toys ending up in landfills. Nadav Leshem came to that conclusion when his son took his first steps and he needed to purchase a baby walker, which ideally lasted for two months.

Leshem immediately envisioned renting these toys to parents. “Kids grow up fast. What met their needs a moment ago is no longer relevant now. Therefore people wouldn’t invest in high-quality expensive toys and instead go for the cheaper ones, 90% of which are made of non-recyclable plastic. I had to do something to eliminate this market failure,”  Leshem notes.

Challenging the market:

Leshem might not have thought of being an entrepreneur, but being an economist and earning a master’s in environmental studies secured a fair idea. “I instantly started doing research only to find that a US average family spends $500 per child per year. I also asked friends in [Israel] how many toys they have without use and it turns out a family can have around $1,500 worth of unused toys,” Leshem says.

Leshem slowly found a market and a base that would be willing to rent toys. He then started Toyswap, the first toy library in Israel, all while keeping his day job and venturing carefully into the entrepreneurial world. “I developed my prototype to start my online pilot, spending days in playgrounds speaking with young parents to convince them to join and enjoy my non-existent inventory,” Leshem adds.

Toyswap was met with much enthusiasm and a number of people subscribed to Leshem’s model. “I suddenly had 40 paying customers and did a lot of delivery by myself to talk directly to my clientele and see what is working and what isn’t,” he says.

Leshem’s pilot was first done all over Israel but it was not sustainable because the shipping costs were very high. “I wanted to do it in order to have a proof of concept and to learn the basics of this model. But the real goal is building physical toy libraries, with the first one having been opened in Kfar Saba, while another is about to open in Tel Aviv,” he adds.

Power of community:

Leshem wanted to use the power of community to spread his idea. He’s even going as far as starting toy libraries from one city to another. “At the moment, I’m doing [it] with the help of the municipalities, but I’m hoping in the future, I can do it on my own,” he notes.

This toy-swapping initiative is changing the rules of the game in a multi-billion industry | The Switchers

Leshem says that he was privileged to see his dream come to fruition: “One of the subscribers had purchased a new toy to her son and when they arrived home, he asked her when Nadav will stop by to replace the toy, which was a very emotional moment for me. So if we expose kids to different consumption models, they get used to them and assume them as the norm,” he shares.

Through Toyswap, Leshem addresses municipalities about the environment which always finds listening ears. “I like to talk about the sustainability aspect and the positive impact I can bring with this model as part of the circular economy, a subject that I’m very interested in,” he adds.

In regards to Toyswap’s base, the pilot project had 80 subscribers. Leshem then wanted to move to the community-based toy libraries which is a lengthy process of building them. He gave a reserved assumption of expecting 150 subscribers per library and about 3,500 toys being saved per year. “It won’t be free like with book libraries so it will cost money, which should provide a bigger variety of high-quality toys,” Leshem says.

Leshem had participated in the SwitchMed Incubation program and said of it: “Everything that can become circular, will become circular, and SwitchMed helped me understand that toys are no exception.”

Lastly, he asserted that Toyswap has been nothing but rewarding having been working in an environmentally-conscious field. Something that, as Toyswap’s slogan emphasized on, changes the rules of the game.

 

To learn more about Toyswap, check their website.

Photo of Nadav Leshem: Anat Pinchas.

 

Toyswap Resource Efficiency & Sustainable Waste Management
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