Jun 28, 2021

LEGO Expands its Sustainable Manufacturing Practices

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“Together, we can rebuild the world,” LEGO Group unveils its latest prototype made from recycled plastics

Committed to playing its part in building a sustainable future, and creating a better, brighter world for children to inherit, LEGO Group has unveiled its latest efforts to make its products from sustainable materials. 

Manufacturing LEGO Bricks From Recycled Plastics 

Committed to making LEGO products from sustainable materials, LEGO has unveiled the latest step on its journey. The toy company has used PET plastics from discarded bottles to create its first prototype that meets its strict quality and safety requirements. 

Harnessing a team of over 150 people, LEGO is working hard to find sustainable solutions for its products. The company reports that over the last three years, materials scientists and engineers have tested more than 250 variations of PET materials, as well as hundreds of other plastic formulations before reaching its first successful prototype. 

“We are super excited about this breakthrough. The biggest challenge on our sustainability journey is rethinking and innovating new materials that are as durable, strong and high quality as our existing bricks – and fit with LEGO elements made over the past 60 years. With this prototype, we’re able to showcase the progress we’re making,” said Tim Brooks, Vice President of Environmental Responsibility at the LEGO Group.

 

When Should We Expect to See These Bricks on the Shelves?

LEGO states that it will be some time before these bricks will appear in their product boxes. The company will continue to test and develop the PET formulation and assess whether to move to the pilot production phases. The next phases of testing is expected to take at least a year.

“We know kids care about the environment and want us to make our products more sustainable. Even though it will be a while before they will be able to play with bricks made from recycled plastic, we want to let kids know we’re working on it and bring them along on the journey with us. Experimentation and failing is an important part of learning and innovation. Just as kids build, unbuild and rebuild with LEGO bricks at home, we’re doing the same in our lab,” added Brooks.

Understanding the Prototype

Made from recycled PET, sourced from suppliers in the United States that use FDA and EFSA approved processes, one litre of plastic PET bottle - on average - provides enough raw material from 10, 2x4 LEGO bricks.

LEGO’s patent-pending materials formulation increases the durability of PET to make it strong enough for LEGO bricks. The company’s innovative process uses bespoke compounding technology to combine the PET with strengthening additives. 

Committed to Sustainability

LEGO’s recycled plastics prototype brick is the latest development made by the company to make its products more sustainable. In 2018, LEGO began producing elements from bio-polyethylene (bio-PE), from sustainably sourced sugarcane. In 2020, LEGO announced that it will also be removing single-use plastics from its boxes. 

“We’re committed to playing our part in building a sustainable future for generations of children. We want our products to have a positive impact on the planet, not just with the play they inspire, but also with the materials we use. We still have a long way to go on our journey but are pleased with the progress we’re making,” added Brooks. 

Discover LEGO’s Sustainability Mission

Committed to investing US$400mn by 2022 to accelerating its sustainability ambitions, LEGO’s focus on sustainable material innovation is just one of its several initiatives to make a positive impact, the company is also committed to zero waste, sustainable packaging and reducing CO2.

 

Sustainable Materials

Without compromising quality and safety, LEGO has set its ambitions to make LEGO bricks from sustainable sources by 2030, a bold ambition that requires the company to make completely new materials. 

“For the LEGO Group, a sustainable material must be responsibly produced, using renewable or recycled resources, generating little or no waste, use sustainable chemistry and be fully recyclable at the end of its life while meeting our high standards for safety, quality and durability,” said LEGO.

Zero Waste

Playing its part in building a sustainable future, LEGO has also set ambitions to have zero landfill waste by 2025. “We’re joining forces with children and parents, our employees, partners, experts and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to have a lasting impact and inspire the children of today to become the builders of tomorrow,” said LEGO.

In addition to zero landfill waste, in August 2020, LEGO joined the Ellen MacArthur Foundation as part of its commitment to becoming a more circular business. Its three-year membership will focus on four key areas: 

  • Working with the Foundation’s network of businesses, experts and policymakers to accelerate the transition to a circular economy 
  • Inspiring circular design across the toy industry and beyond
  • Expanding the circular services and products the LEGO Group offers 
  • Teaching children about the circular economy through play

Currently Available in the US and Canada, LEGO has also established LEGO Replay. Through this initiative, LEGO aims to inspire LEGO owners to pass along the bricks they are no longer using. 

“The LEGO brick is recognised by LEGO owners to last for generations. We pride ourselves on the high quality and longevity of our brick. We know that 97% of LEGO owners keep or share their bricks, passing them on to friends or family. As part of our Planet Promise, we want to help LEGO owners ensure that LEGO bricks can be rebuilt and replayed with – having a new creative life,” said LEGO.

Sustainable Packaging

“LEGO® bricks are designed to be reused and handed down through generations, but LEGO boxes and other packaging are often disposed of quickly,” said LEGO. As a result, the company is taking urgent action to make all its packaging sustainable by 2025.

Sustainable packaging efforts made by LEGO:

  • At the end of 2019, LEOG committed to removing all plastic retail bags from its 500 stores globally in 2020, replacing them with paper bags from 100% certified Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC® C117818) material.
  • In 2019, LEGO boxes in the US and Canada featured a ‘How2Recycle’ Label, promoting packaging recycling. 
  • In 2018, LEGO began to recycle plastic in packaging ‘blisters’, which will eventually be phased out. 
  • In 2017, LEGO started using recyclable paper-pulp in advent calendar trays, saving 1 million plastics trays from going to landfill.

Reducing CO2

Striving to reduce its CO2 emissions when making LEGO bricks, LEGO achieves this by increasing its carbon efficiency and investing in onsite and offsite renewables.

“We are proud to be balanced with 100% renewable energy due to the investments in offshore wind in Germany and the UK by our parent company KIRKBI A/S. Energy output from investments in renewables currently exceeds the energy used at our factories, offices and stores,” said LEGO.

Reducing CO2 efforts made by LEGO:

  • Fitting its factory in Mexico with over 19,000 high-efficient LED lightbulbs, saving over 1,300 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually.
  • Installing in the Czech Republic a roof-based renewable energy system with more than 3,500 solar panels, reducing CO2 emissions by over 500 tonnes annually. 
  • Installing innovative cooling systems in its Danish factory that minimises the need for a refrigerant-based system, and providing a significant energy reduction of over 538,000 kWh (the equivalent of an annual reduction of 11 tonnes of CO2).
  • Running an engage-to-reduce program across its supply chain to lowers its suppliers’ carbon emissions, water use, and forestry impact. 

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