Governments and corporations worldwide are on a mission to tackle our addiction to plastic. The Queen is banning single-use plastics on royal estates, the Netherlands is introducing plastic-free supermarket aisles, and the EU has launched an urgent plan to ensure all packaging is reusable or recyclable as soon as 2020. In Kenya, things are even more extreme – producers and distributors of single-use plastic bags could land jail time or a $40,000 fine.
Now, the LEGO Group – the brand that made its name selling little chunks of plastic – is getting in on the action. The family-owned company will be launching the first sustainable LEGO bricks later this year.
“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,” said Tim Brooks, senior director for Environmental Sustainability at LEGO.
“This is a great first step in our ambitious commitment of making all LEGO bricks using sustainable materials.”
This decision is part of a company-wide policy to transition to sustainable materials in core products and packaging by 2030, a mission the brand invested 1 billion Danish krone ($165 million) to back in 2015. To classify as sustainable, the LEGO Group says a material must have a smaller footprint than the material it replaces in terms of various different environmental and social areas, including fossil fuel use, human rights, and climate change.
These particular bricks will be made from botanical materials, including trees, bushes, and leaves. The plastic is a soft, durable, flexible type called polyethylene, which is made from sugarcane.
All well and good you might say, but what about the quality of the product?
“LEGO products have always been about providing high quality play experiences giving every child the chance to shape their own world through inventive play,” Brooks added. “Children and parents will not notice any difference in the quality or appearance of the new elements, because plant-based polyethylene has the same properties as conventional polyethylene.”
“It is essential that companies in each industry find ways to responsibly source their product materials and help ensure a future where people, nature, and the economy thrive,” Alix Grabowski, a senior program officer at WWF, who partners with LEGO, said. “The LEGO Group’s decision to pursue sustainably sourced bio-based plastics represents an incredible opportunity to reduce dependence on finite resources, and their work with the Bioplastic Feedstock Alliance will allow them to connect with other companies to continue to think creatively about sustainability.”
Last year, it announced it was running entirely from renewable energy three years ahead of schedule. (They even built a wind turbine to celebrate.) Let's hope other companies follow in its footsteps.