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Funko Pops became massively popular during the pandemic — but there's a dark secret hiding behind that trend

In the U.S., there are no laws against dumping unsold merchandise.

Funko Pops

Photo Credit: iStock

Funko saw a boom in sales during the pandemic, and it increased production to match, reports Kotaku. 

Now that interest in the collectibles is falling, the company is sitting on millions of dollars of excess stock that costs money to keep. So it has announced plans to get rid of it in the traditional corporate American way: It's throwing those brand new toys in the garbage.

What's happening?

Funko's problem is storage space, Kotaku explains. It's manufacturing more Funko Pops than customers are willing to buy. The company has produced so many of its bobblehead collectibles that its warehouses and fulfillment centers are overflowing, and it has to pay to rent storage space for the extras — so it's losing money simply by having them.

According to the company, the solution is simple. Funko is just going to dump $30 million to $36 million of merchandise in an Arizona landfill. There, the vinyl figures could sit for centuries before breaking down, creating planet-overheating methane gas pollution as they deteriorate, according to Recycle Nation.

Why is this a major problem?

The idea of trashing unsold merchandise isn't new. John Steinbeck's classic novel The Grapes of Wrath, published in 1939, includes a scene in which a company destroys unsold oranges by dousing them with kerosene to make them inedible. If the company simply allowed hungry bystanders to eat the perfectly good food, then they would buy less food elsewhere — so the company makes more money by destroying its produce than by lowering prices or just giving it to people who need it.

Funko faces a similar problem with its figurines. It could give the extras away, but then they'd be less valuable as collectibles, and fewer people would buy them in the future. Recycling plastic is also difficult and costly. So instead of donating the Funko Pops to a toy recycling program or trying to salvage the materials, it makes financial sense for the company to throw them out.

Unfortunately, this means millions of figurines will be dumped in a landfill, taking up space. All the energy and resources that went into manufacturing each product will be wasted. Meanwhile, the company will just keep manufacturing more toys for sale, contributing to pollution, waste, and the rising temperature of our planet.

What's being done?

In the U.S., there are no laws against dumping unsold merchandise. However, in France, recent legislation forbids companies from throwing away unused non-food items, reports the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. 

The law is the first of its kind, meant to promote a "circular economy," a system in which manufacturers plan from the beginning for the eco-friendly disposal of their products and reuse of materials. 

If laws of this kind spread, countries would produce significantly less waste and pollution.

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