Birds are destructive. This means toys are destroyed very quickly. I would quote a smart statistic here on how much destruction, in toys, an average medium sized bird could produce in a a year, but the number is too large to calculate. Therefore, I will leave it simply at a lot.
However, when you consider that you are buying toys simply to be destroyed tomorrow, it is very important to consider where those toys are from, what they are made of, and what their impact on the environment and your individual parrot is. Obviously, when considering the impact on your parrot, it is important to make sure the toys are made of safe materials - stainless steel metal, safe woods and dyes, no glues, vegetable tanned leather, etc. What is a safe material for one parrot may not be safe for another. I avoid all soft plastics for my birds, since they are full of toxins, and I am not entirely sure that those toxins are not leaching into the parrot's system as they chew on them. For Frank, though, I avoid all plastics, as he has a rather weak detox system (liver and kidneys) and will sit and chew on the plastic beads as they come apart in fine shreds. Obviously, he would be swallowing a great deal of these shreds, and they cause his system to go cattywampus! As for dyes, I completely avoid synthetic dyes for my ekkies and, again, Frank. If given a choice, I go for undyed items for the others, as well, but have not noticed a major difference either way. And finally, for all my birds, if I am in doubt, I move on. No need to put their health at risk, they will, after all, be spending hours with the toy in their mouths destroying it; if there is something bad in it, I would think it would make its way into their bodies!
It is more difficult, though, to tell what the environmental impact is. Some things are easy to tell. Plastic production, again, is very hard on the environment; another good reason to avoid soft plastics, especially. Non-organic rope is either cotton, which supports the use of pesticides (while putting those chemical residues in with your bird, by the way) or a synthetic material from petro chemicals, which are not great for the environment either. Wood, though, is something I often wonder about. How do I know the wood on my parrot toys is from sustainable harvesting? Many parrot toys are made in China, with wood taken from.....? And everyone knows the horrible environmental impact of clear cutting!
In the end, can everyone avoid these products for their birds, and only buy the best? Not really. However, by making small changes, choosing a safer toy over a suspicious one once on every toy order, it can make small differences, which can really add up. Here are some "green" products I know of:
- Planet Pleasure Toys - personally my favorite (who doesn't love supporting fair trade?), and definitely my birds' favorite!
-Organic Cotton Rope
-Safe wood from your backyard - if unsprayed, this is always a good option!
-Java wood comes from discarded coffee trees
Let me know if you know of any more!