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Lego to save the world by ditching oil-based plastic in their bricks

Any child anywhere knows that Lego’s little plastic bricks are an integral part of life, and any parent anywhere knows that stepping on Lego’s little plastic bricks are an integral part of vicariously teaching your kids to swear. But in the spirit of loving the earth, Lego is going bio.

By 2030, all of the Danish toy company’s bricks will be made with non-oil based plastic. Lego identified that while CO2 emitted during production was minimal, ‘offscreen’ CO2 production – i.e. the carbon produced before the base materials actually get to Lego – was still quite high.

The company has indicated it wishes to reduce their carbon footprint, and as around 60 billion bricks come out of Lego factories per year, it’s a pretty big footprint.

The change won’t be cheap, with the company estimating it will need to spend around $200 million to convert. And it won’t just affect the company’s signature bricks, with packaging and other associated plastics also being replaced.

While the company has always had a greenish bent – they have invested in wind energy to offset the energy used in the production of the bricks – they have never attempted anything nearly this massive, having used oil-based plastic for their entire 60-year history.

Lego bricks will still be hard, square and colourful, but made from better plastics. Image: Lego.

Lego bricks will still be hard, square and colourful, but made from better plastics. Image: Lego.

What material will they use to build the bricks? Simply, they don’t know yet. Press officer Roar Trangbaek – yes, Danish children are sometimes called Roar – says that the company has begun working with universities around the globe to identify a suitable material.

There is a chance that the company could continue to use oil-based plastics by adopting recycled plastics as their source material, although there are several difficulties with using this method. They already recycle around 70 million bricks per year – which sounds like a lot but is only a tiny fraction of their annual output.

More likely is that a material with a biological base will be used, provided that it can match the characteristics of the current blocks: hard, shiny, sharp, colourful, and pretty much indestructible.

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Comment (2)

    kokociel

    Monday 13 July 2015

    It sounds like a good pledge, but 2030? Won’t they be forced to move off oil-based plastics by then anyway?

    Reply

      Tristan Rayner

      Monday 13 July 2015

      Oil’s sticking around for awhile yet – there’s billions of barrels out there that are economically viable. Should we start running out of oil, they will be viable. Think oil sands, etc.

      Reply