Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

Wham-O to Make Frisbees from Post-Consumer Recycled Content

According to this recent story in the San Francisco Chronicle, Wham-O, the toy manufacturer founded in a Pasadena, Calif. garage in 1948, will soon be producing Frisbees, Hula Hoops and other products made from recycled plastics (such as margarine tubs, yogurt containers and milk jugs) and sawdust reclaimed from sawmills.

The company’s new owner, Kyle Aguilar, is bringing new energy to Wham-O and recently acquired Sprig Toys Inc., a Colorado-based company that makes ”eco-friendly” preschool toys out of  what it calls “Sprigwood” — the recycled plastic and sawdust mix. According to the Chronicle article, Sprigwood “feels like a slightly heavier plastic with visible flecks of wood and emits the scent of cedar.”

Prior to the use of this material, Frisbees had been injection molded out of polyethylene since the early 1950s. Here’s everything you ever wanted to know about how they have been manufactured.

Wham-O, based in Emeryville, Calif., began as an independent company. In 1982 it was purchased by Kransco Group Companies. In 1994, Mattel bought Wham-O and in 1997 Wham-O became independent once again.  In 2006, the company was purchased by Cornerstone Overseas Investments of Hong Kong.  New owner Aguilar also owns Manufacturing Marvel Inc., which makes toys  — including some Wham-O items — and promotional products from plastic, glass, tin, porcelain and other materials. His purchase of the company will return some Wham-O manufacturing to the United States.

The Frisbee’s inventor, Walter Fredrick “Fred” Morrison, died last month at the age of 90. According to CNN,  he began designing flying discs in 1937 after tossing around popcorn tin lids and cake pans. Soon enough he was selling “Flyin’ Cake Pans” for 25 cents at California beaches and parks. After returning from World War II, Morrison designed a plastic Flyin-Saucer that didn’t catch on. But his better-designed Pluto Platter sold enough to interest Wham-O. The company and Morrison struck a deal in 1957.  Depending on what source you read, 200-300 million Frisbees have been sold.

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