Lego, the world’s largest toymaker, has reversed its decision to produce its iconic bricks from recycled drink bottles instead of oil-based plastic. The Danish company found that using recycled polyethylene terephthalate (RPET) for production would actually result in higher carbon emissions, according to a report by the Financial Times.
In 2021, Lego began exploring the possibility of transitioning from acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) to RPET. ABS, which is used in around 80% of Lego blocks, requires approximately 2kg of petroleum to produce 1kg of plastic. This material provides durability to the bricks and makes them easy to assemble and pull apart.
Lego CEO Niels Christiansen explained, “We tested hundreds and hundreds of materials. It’s just not been possible to find a material like that.” Tim Brooks, head of sustainability at Lego, likened the challenge to “trying to make a bike out of wood rather than steel,” emphasizing the difficulty of replacing ABS.
Instead of switching to RPET, Lego now plans to gradually make each component of ABS more sustainable by incorporating more bio-based and recycled materials. Christiansen stated, “It’s not going from being 0 to 100% sustainable from one day to the next, but you start with elements of it being based on either bio materials or recycled materials. Maybe it’s 50%, or 30%, or 70% based on that.”
Lego initially set a target to eliminate all petroleum-based plastics in its playsets by 2030. By 2025, the company aims to eliminate single-use plastic bags in its packaging, with many current sets already featuring paper containers instead.
The decision to abandon the use of recycled drink bottles highlights the complexities and challenges that companies face in their sustainability efforts. While the initial intent was to reduce the reliance on oil-based plastic and contribute to a circular economy, the environmental impact of the alternative material proved to be counterproductive.
Lego’s commitment to sustainable practices remains strong, as it acknowledges the need for a gradual transition towards increased use of bio-based and recycled materials. By continuously improving the sustainability of its products, Lego aims to align itself with the growing consumer demand for environmentally friendly options.
It is important to note that sustainability initiatives require extensive research and development, as well as rigorous testing, to ensure that they indeed lead to positive environmental outcomes. In the case of Lego, the pursuit of a more sustainable alternative to ABS proved to be more challenging than anticipated.
Ultimately, the decision to prioritize reduced carbon emissions over using recycled drink bottles demonstrates the company’s dedication to responsible and ethical manufacturing practices. As Lego continues on its sustainability journey, it will undoubtedly explore new avenues and innovative solutions to make its products more environmentally friendly.
In the ever-evolving consumer landscape, companies like Lego play a crucial role in driving change by setting an example for others in the industry. By openly sharing their challenges and learnings, they contribute to the collective effort to reduce the environmental impact of plastic production and consumption.
As Lego refines its sustainability strategy, it remains committed to its long-term goals of reducing plastic waste and creating a more sustainable future for both the toy industry and the planet. By gradually implementing changes and prioritizing materials with lower carbon footprints, Lego aims to strike a balance between innovation, quality, and environmental responsibility.
In an era where climate change and environmental sustainability are at the forefront of global discussions, the decisions made by companies like Lego carry significant weight. By demonstrating their commitment to continuously improving and adapting their practices, they serve as beacons of hope for a greener and more sustainable future.