Ecotronic Wind-up Toys: Beeping without Batteries

Russimco, a UK toy company, has launched a series of wind-up toys under the name Ecotronic. The Big Idea is that these electronic toys eliminate the need for toxic batteries, and also ship in paper packaging devoid of tape, metal ties and other stuff we don’t need in our landfills.

Check out two of its offerings for young children…

Photo of the Eco Phone, a purple plastic phone with six buttons.

The Eco Phone lights up and makes noise after you power it by shaking it.

It could be a nifty toy, depending on how much beep you get for your brawn. And, whether your toddler can shake it adequately, or if he’s running to you every two minutes beckoning for his toy to be fixed.

When my daughter began mimicking Mom and Dad’s phone use, her toy phone didn’t require batteries and she used her mouth to make her own beeping noises. Still, an electronic shake phone is kind of cool, right?

Next, there is the Eco Duck

Photo of a plastic blue Eco Duck with three buttons on his body labeled A, B, and C.

This duck a bit more tricky. He has lights and sounds, but you have to wind a hand crank on his bottom.

Conspicuously unexplained on the company’s website is whether this toy that looks like a rubber duck is actually intended for the water (if he’s not, how long does he last after junior brings him into the tub?).

And also, what’s fun about a duck implanted with buttons?

These toys launched this year and are making the circuit at retailer toy fairs. Due to their originating in the United Kingdom, chances are we may not see them in the US for a while. (The company didn’t respond to my inquiry. I’d love to run an Eco Phone through its paces.)

Other Ecotronic toys include a baby radio, radio for slightly older kids, microphone, flashlight, toy rocket, and robot head.

So, whatcha think? Are these toys environmentally friendly, not friendly enough, cool, or hokey?

Update: Aha! Ecotronic’s PR film contacted me with a few answers…

Photo of the Eco Duck, this time with a pull-string attached. That’s right! Eco Duck is a pull-string toy. Push his buttons and he plays nursery rhymes. Photos will be added to the website soon that reveal this important little detail.

Here’s a doosie… Each toy "comes with a unique code on its box, which when entered into a
dedicated website, gives parents access to the individual safety certification
of the toy and also all the facts and figures they need on the
environmental impact — from production to shop and beyond."

And we’ll be receiving review samples to run through their paces. So, go ahead and post your questions about the Eco Phone and Eco Duck (and any of the other toys) and I’ll flush them out in the reviews.


10 Responses to “Ecotronic Wind-up Toys: Beeping without Batteries”

  1. My Boaz's Ruth says:

    I’m with you. I don’t get the duck.

    I don’t see the environmental part. They are still plastic right? I’ve never really heard people complaining about batteries as a big problem (other than expense to keep replacing them)

    March 10th, 2008 at 6:36 am

  2. zana says:

    I can’t find on the site any suggested ages. My child is too young for the manual dexterity to wind toys, but are the buttons too stiff for a two year old?

    March 10th, 2008 at 6:57 am

  3. Kelly says:

    Where’s the off switch? A toy with batteries is a toy that can be silenced. I try to avoid all toys that make noise and don’t have an off switch.

    If they are so concerned with being green why make electronic toys at all?

    March 10th, 2008 at 9:24 am

  4. AJ says:

    I just updated the article with a second duck photo and additional details.

    MBR, batteries are definitely an environmental issue. In California they are classified as hazardous waste and cannot legally be disposed of in your trash can. I save them up and take them to a recycling center that accepts them (for special disposal). But of course, the world would be better off if our electronic devices didn’t need batteries.

    March 10th, 2008 at 9:24 am

  5. Erica says:

    The wind-up thing is a bother to me, because these seem geared toward toddlers, but a lot of toddlers don’t have the ability to wind up the dumb things. Enter frustrated Mom and Dad. But my 2 1/2 year old daughter would love the squeeze penguin flashlight (she wants to be a penguin when she grows up…) and the microphone (American Idol, here we come?). Interesting concept and toys, but I think I’m still on the fence.

    March 10th, 2008 at 9:39 am

  6. Allison (CodeCrafter) says:

    The duck and the phone don’t seem all that interesting to me since they aren’t toys I would buy for my son anyway. A regular unplugged phone will amuse him just fine and we already have a number of toys with buttons that make random noises.

    I am however very interested in the radio for older kids. Is it a real radio? Did I see on the website that you can also use the radio to charge a cellphone?! That would be great not just as a toy but for emergencies and for camping.

    March 10th, 2008 at 10:42 am

  7. Cindi Hoppes says:

    Happy Monday! Is the only “eco” part the non-use of batteries? I think eventually the toys would stop working if they need shaking all of the time! I will be waiting to read your reviews! Thanks,Cindi

    March 10th, 2008 at 2:34 pm

  8. Gregory says:

    Hmm, the elimination of batteries is a green step, but the device is still banned from California landfills. From the page AJ linked: “Electronic devices. Includes computers, printers, VCRs, cell phones, telephones, radios, and microwave ovens.” If radios are on that list, I’m sure the duck or phone would have toxic elements in the electronic parts. You would be just as “green” if you used rechargeable batteries and made sure you properly disposed of electronics and worn-out batteries.

    March 11th, 2008 at 8:28 am

  9. AJ says:

    Electronic devices are generally toxic because they have circuit boards and such. Eliminating batteries from electronic devices removes one of the two toxics from the equation.

    Rechargeable batteries are toxic too, so a battery-free device is superior to one that uses rechargeables.

    March 11th, 2008 at 10:12 am

  10. Stacey says:

    First question that comes to mind is what plastic are they made of? I really try to limit the contact that my toddlers have with plastic…since they chew on everything.

    March 11th, 2008 at 7:14 pm

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