#TECH: No escaping Barbie's carbon footprint

PLASTIC is definitely not fantastic, including in the world of Barbie! With around 60 million dolls sold every year, Mattel processes a significant amount of plastic, generating waste and greenhouse gas emissions that could amount to some 39,000 tCO2e per year, according to CO2 emissions calculator Greenly.

The platform investigated the carbon footprint of Mattel's famous doll, currently in the spotlight thanks to the


movie, which opened in cinemas in mid-July. Greenly based its calculations on an American study published in 2022. The study in question focused on a small selection of children's toys, including the Barbie doll, three Lego sets (Star Wars, Batgirl and Catwoman), a Jenga game, plush dogs (including one with batteries), and a Marble Frenzy game. Each of these toys represented significant sales in their sector or were a sample of a broader toy category, the study explains. According to the research, a 180g Barbie doll would score emissions of 648g CO2e over its entire life cycle. By comparison, a Cat Woman Lego set was found to have a carbon footprint of 755g CO2e, plush dogs (with or without batteries) amounted to 622g CO2e and the Lego Star Wars toy to 537g CO2e.

With around 60 million Barbie dolls sold each year, this corresponds to 39,000 tCO2e, calculates Greenly. The study also points out that 92 per cent of American girls aged 3 to 12 own an average of 12 Barbies. Since the doll's creation in 1959, over a billion Barbies have been sold worldwide. However, this figure does not take into account the entire Barbie universe and its various derivative products like clothes, cars, motor homes, airplanes, houses and other plastic toys, says the Greenly research.

In recent years, Mattel has been making its green commitments known to consumers. For example, in 2021, the manufacturer launched its "Barbie Loves the Ocean" collection (the bodies of these dolls are made from recycled plastic), and its "Mattel PlayBack" campaign, a toy recycling scheme launched in five countries (Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States). However, these initiatives are far from sufficient in Greenly's view. "Mattel said in its 2021 Citizenship Report that its emissions were 177,000 tCO2e. However, this figure excludes all indirect emissions, which account for 80 per cent of a company's emissions," the Greenly research says.

"While the new Barbie movie makes a good case for overturning the values previously associated with the plastic doll, namely the fight against patriarchy and associated prejudice, it's still an ode to overconsumption. Apparently, in Barbie's world, climate change doesn't exist either," comments Alexis Normand, co-founder of Greenly.

Similar criticism has been voiced by the "Barbie Liberation Organisation", a group of activists in the US who devised a fake campaign based on the famous doll, which even managed to fool some news outlets in the US. In a false press release, purportedly issued by Barbie manufacturer Mattel, this "liberation front" announced the end of plastic use by 2030 and the launch of a new doll, the EcoWarrior. This model would supposedly be made from biodegradable materials, such as mushrooms and hemp. This fake announcement even went so far as to feature actress Daryl Hannah, known for her environmental commitments, in its campaign.

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