Canadian Plastics

Canadian Materials Power New “Green” Toys

I n this age of toxic toy recalls, Colorado-based toy manufacturer Sprig Toys is a breath of fresh air.

January 1, 2009   By Umair Abdul, Assistant Editor



In this age of toxic toy recalls, Colorado-based toy manufacturer Sprig Toys is a breath of fresh air.

At the company’s core is a strong environmental conscience that is predicated on doing no harm — both in terms of reduced toxicity and a lower carbon footprint — without compromising the product’s integrity.

The Sprig Adventure Series, a line of eco-friendly toys, were made available in toy stores throughout Canada and the U. S. just in time for the holiday season. And there is a strong

Canadian element to the environmentally friendly, “kid-powered” electronic vehicles and accessories: they are manufactured using a thermoplastic biocomposite compound from a leading Canadian innovator.

Delta, B. C.-based JER Envirotech is a producer of thermoplastic biocomposite compounds and sheeting that has made a name for itself in markets such as building and construction, but the new Sprig series is the first injection molded toy application for the company.

JER spent nearly 12 months working with Sprig Toys to develop a custom compound called Sprigwood, which is made of recycled wood and reclaimed plastic, and is used to mold all vehicle and character bodies.

“The shape and the physical aspects of the product are very tough and durable,” noted JER president and CEO Edward Trueman. “At the same time, we have a very high level of recycled material both on the polymer side and the fiber side.”

JER’s wood-plastic composite (WPC) materials were developed with the help of researchers from the National Research Council Industrial Materials Institute (NRC-IMI) in the early 2000s. JER and NRC worked to develop advanced biocomposite compounds using organic fibre byproducts and recycled plastics, with the goal of achieving high recycled content and excellent physical properties.

“The JER/NRC approach was very unique, and it was really striking at the heart of one of the largest technical problems — the elimination of moisture,” explained Trueman. “Moisture compromises the physical and mechanical properties, so the original premise was to develop a line of products that had good physical mechanical properties and was able to reduce moisture, which is an important consideration in injection molding.”

Using its patented technology, JER and Sprig Toys developed the Sprigwood formulation, which is made up of more than 60 per cent recycled materials.

And despite its unique properties, Trueman says Sprigwood is injection molded without too many adjustments.

“Existing injection molding equipment and design are more than suitable for our product,” he added. “The specific gating and tool design is where we add our degree of expertise.”

Trueman does note, however, that the compound has a significantly lower temperature profile than a virgin material like polypropylene. But he adds that JER provides its clients with tooling expertise and design consultancy services, and the lower processing temperatures reduce energy consumption and limit wear on the tooling.

“We help our customers develop defect-free, process-enhanced products that meet the criteria of productivity, without modification of any of the original equipment,” he said.

The Sprig Adventure Series has received a lot of media attention, and the products were well-received in stores over the Christmas season. But the collaboration between JER and Sprig Toys is far from over. The green toy manufacturer will release a new line of toys this spring, all manufactured using JER’s Sprigwood compound.

JER Envirotech (Delta, B. C.);www.jerenvirotech.com;604-940-9262

National Research Council Industrial Materials Institute

(Boucherville, Que.);www.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca;

450-641-5000


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