LEGO, the most well-known children's delight. The same applies to some of us, grown-ups. What's so special about it is that two LEGO bricks produced decades apart can still fit together.
Founded in 1932 in Billund (Denmark), LEGO's company has passed from father to son. At the moment is owned by one of the founder's grandchildren, Ole Kirk Christiansen. The product itself - the LEGO brick - has barely changed in the last 50 years. However, a call to change arises.
LEGO is impressive, but its brick are still made of plastic
As plastic pollution became one of the biggest issues in recent years, LEGO was not excluded from the equation. Its bricks are still made of plastic and the company releases about 1.1 million tons of carbon dioxide every year to produce them. Roughly 80% of the 75 billion LEGO pieces sold every year are fabricated with petroleum-based acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene. In other words, ABS. A type of plastic widely used in mobile phone cases and computer keys.
The CO2 commitment
Since LEGO wants to stop being dependent on petroleum-based plastics and transform its toys with sustainable materials, thinking about eco solutions became a priority. LEGO announced that something will change:
"We are committed to making a positive impact on the world children will inherit. Children inspire us and we admire their intuitive approach toward play and learning. In turn we want to inspire children to take care of their society and environment.
In our work, we strive to safeguard the natural resources that children will inherit and minimise our environmental impact. We must set a good example as a company, and inspire and engage with children to take care of the environment as well. To achieve this, we work to reduce CO2 emissions in our operations and supply chain." - The LEGO Group, Climate impact 2017.
The company aims to build its toys and packaging from plant-based or recycled materials this by 2030. The real mission is to change the material without affecting the toys' bright colors, toughness (that's why it hurts so much when you step on a brick), easy clinging and separation. This is the goal, so buyers don't have to choose between the new sustainable bricks and the old plastic ones.
To accomplish this, LEGO invested about $152 million and one hundred more workers in finding a solution to this plastic challenge. LEGO already tested around 200 alternative materials, such as:
- Recycled ABS plastic, which fails in the bright colors requirement;
- Polylactic acid (PLA), a biodegradable plastic made from sugarcane or corn. Also failed the expected requirements;
- ABL, a new plastic developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. ABL is not as tough as ABS, which means that bricks made from ABL can lose their shape over time.
As LEGO's vice president for materials Nelleke van der Puil said: "We look at how does it look, and how does it feel".
ABL is definitely hard to defeat, but LEGO is determined and the search for plant-based plastics continues.
According to Tim Brooks, LEGO's vice president for environmental responsibility:
"It is important that we can make a toy that doesn't jeopardize children's future."
Sustainability brick by brick
The company released in 2018 its first sustainable elements made from plant-based plastic obtained from sugarcane - Plants from Plants. Its botanical elements such as trees, leaves, and bushes are the first ones to be sustainable. They represent the first big step towards LEGO's great mission.
"At the LEGO Group we want to make a positive impact on the world around us, and are working hard to make great play products for children using sustainable materials" - Brooks says - "this is a great first step in our ambitious commitment of making all LEGO bricks using sustainable materials."
The new sustainable elements come in the Vestas Wind Turbine kit, which is a wind turbine. LEGO did it so to celebrate its achievement of manufacturing under wind power.
Keywords: LEGO, plastic, sustainable, carbon emissionsy