Most people are aware by now that there’s pile of plastic trash called The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, that’s twice the size of Texas, roaming the waters between California and Hawaii. According to Ocean Conservancy, 8 million metric tons of trash enter the ocean each year, on top of an estimated 150 million metric tons already circulating.
It’s gotten so bad that Aquaman himself, Jason Momoa, recently shaved his glorious beard to raise awareness. There’s been a continuing argument over whether or not to ban plastic straws and bags since 2018. Countless lives of whales, sharks, seabirds, sea turtles, etc. have been taken simply due to accidental ingestion of too much plastic — and FYI, humans, being at the top of the food chain, are now consuming fish that are full of it, too.
Wild Republic, who’ve been devoted to bringing the joy of nature-themed toys since 1979, is stepping up to help clean the planet with their eco-friendly strategies. Their new initiatives include using 80% recycled cardboard in all their packaging, biodegradable alternatives to inner plastic parts, using beads made of recycled material, and a shift to 100% recycled PET plastic water bottles to create the fibers of their stuffing.
The stuffed animal line dubbed The Living Ocean Collection promotes both recycling and the conservation of marine animals that are harmed by plastic waste. When AiPT! was offered items to review as part of a special Earth Day promotion, I excitedly requested and promptly received two stuffed animals, a Hawksbill Sea Turtle and a Black Tipped Shark.
My stuffed animals arrived in a cardboard box with a page of information that talked about some of the environmentally friendly qualities of their toys. It had sat out in the rain briefly, but luckily, there was no damage.
The first lovey I pulled out was the 20″ turtle. The colors were absolutely beautiful and, despite having an oddly condescending look about its face, it was a near perfect rendition of a sea turtle! There are no markings on the underside, which seems off considering how much attention to detail there is on the shell.
I pet it, squished it, and even simulated a snuggle session. At first, I wondered if maybe some dust had gotten into the package, as it felt so soft but also sort of gritty. I attempted to dust it off, but it didn’t budge. After taking a closer look, I realized it was the end of a strand of PET plastic fill sticking out from the inside.
The turtle’s neck is very stiff, while the flippers and tail are floppy. Its eyes are hard plastic and are absolutely huge underneath the felt wrap. There were a few extra strings I clipped off, but overall, this adorable sea turtle is quite lovable.
After checking out the turtle, I pulled out the 20″ shark. It felt a lot smoother, but there were still pieces of plastic poking through. There were also some weird seams on this one, but no gaps or excess string.
Once again, the coloration on the skin was done perfectly, and the eyes were well-coordinated. Surprisingly, the teeth were quite rough to the touch, but it’s a good fit for being a shark.
Its tail has enough stuffing to stick out and hold its shape well. That said, this shark can’t lie flat without bending the tail upward. This causes it to crease just ahead of the tail seam, and we had to squish the fill back into place and figure out a better way to display him.
After checking out the soy ink Wild Republic tags and picking at the PET plastic fibers for a while, I decided that I’d let the kids have a go with them. They were thrilled. Younger kids may need supervision with them due to both the plastic fibers and the small, hard eyes, which could be a choking hazard.
My kids played with them for much longer than I anticipated, which was delightful. I should mention that these huggable creatures are also lightweight, which means they’ll get carried all around the house!
My oldest son and my husband could feel the fibers, but they didn’t bother them in the least. I was concerned about the toddler picking at them, but he didn’t seem to notice at all. Perhaps it’s just me being an awkward, overly tactile person.
To sum up, these are pretty cool. They may be best-suited as a conversation piece or an addition to a collection, but the kids had a blast, too. The water bottles in the stuffing *could* have wound up in the landfill or the ocean and, for that, I can overlook the occasional poke and slightly gritty feeling. They’re still fairly soft and fun to squish, which is essential for any lovey!
Wild Republic has a massive selection of stuffed toys as well as MANY others to choose from, so definitely check them out!