Popper fidget toys are the latest 2021 children's craze but how environmentally friendly are they?
Poppers, pop-its, push poppers, bubble popz and pop fidgets – varying names for the latest big craze in children's fidget toys.
Looking like a cross between an ice cube tray and a giant sheet of bubble wrap, the sensory toys have fallen into the mainstream thanks to TikTok videos and social media.
Designed initially for children with anxiety or other special educational needs, who find the distraction of making the popping motion with their fingers beneficial, push poppers are now being snapped up in their thousands by parents whose children are desperate to be part of the latest playground and internet trend.
But for families still reeling – literally – from the fidget spinner craze of 2018 and the unbelievable demand for gooey pots of squelching slime that smeared itself across 2019 alongside many of our soft furnishings, the insatiable appetite for fidget poppers continues and is no doubt the latest online-driven must-have.
A quick internet search will produce hundreds of challenges and games in which players compete to see who can push and pop all of their empty bubbles first alongside some rather more cynical attempts to see if avid popper fans can subscribe or sign-up to social media channels and accounts quicker than it takes the person in the video to plunge all of the bubbles in their tray.
Alongside a raft of internet shopping options, high street stores including Claire's, The Entertainer, Smyths Toys and The Works are all selling a variety of the strange yet satisfying gadget, where prices range from between £2 and £6 depending on the size.
While wholesaler H.Grossman Ltd placed an order for just under three million of the fidgety faves this year because of the eye-popping number of requests from shops and convenience stores keen to get their hands on sought-after stock.
The Scotland-based company said the demand from retailers to sell the pocket-money style toys has been 'wild'.
And just like fidget spinners, slime pots or even the cartoon-looking anti-stress toys Squishies, these too come in a heady range of colours and styles potentially adding to the temptation to purchase more than just one?
There are shaped push poppers moulded into the silhouettes of anything from unicorns to hearts and butterflies, coloured poppers, tie dye swirls, rainbow patterns, camouflage print and glitter pop fidgets alongside smaller keyring style poppers with just one or two bubbles small fingers can't resist.
And should the lights ever go out in school or for the most unusual night light – there is a fast-growing range of glow in the dark poppers too.
But just-like the craze for loom-brands, which adorned wrists and ankles with brightly coloured rubber band style jewellery a few years ago that reportedly found its way into rivers and oceans and became equally problematic to recycle, environmentalists would perhaps like to soon pop the bubble on this year's trend as well.
Like so many toys, most fidget toys are made from plastic which both council refuse experts and environmental organisations agree cannot be recycled through traditional methods such as household kerb-side collections.
Charity Friends of the Earth has expressed its own concerns that such fast-changing trends mean items, which are extremely popular one minute and fall out of fashion the next, are only adding to the amount of 'unwanted plastic' on the planet.
Being made of complex materials often means the process of recycling can be too costly and complicated for local authorities, which mostly accept waste made of a single material such as glass, paper, cardboard or aluminium. Instead unwanted or broken toys not destined for charity collections go into household waste bins, which sends rubbish to either landfill or incineration.
A spokesman for innovative recycling organisation TerraCycle explained: "Where it becomes more complicated is when a waste item is made out of a complex material, or several materials, as is the case with most toys. The process of recycling these materials is complicated and costly and the end product is worth less than the cost of recycling the waste, so the economics simply do not work."
During the peak of the LOL doll craze two years ago TerraCycle launched a recycling scheme for the tiny toys and their packaging to help families dispose of them in an ethical way.
While it does not yet have a similar option for fidget toys, families who are keen to recycle large amounts of plastic no longer played with can buy a TerraCycle Toys Zero Waste Box instead.
The box, which comes in various sizes, can be packed full of waste that can't be recycled with local councils such as non-electronic plastic toys, dolls, action figures, cards and boardgames, before being sent back using the pre-paid label attached. TerraCycle will then recycle all of the collected materials, saving them from landfill or incineration. You can find more details about the collection scheme here.