LEGO Group introduces greener, sugarcane-based plastic for use in toy bricks

Ethan Castro
Technews Writer
Fri Mar 23, 2018

As a company reliant on the use of Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastics in its main products, The LEGO Group is oftentimes regarded as having a very shaky relationship with the natural environment. To help quell these concerns, the organization has invested over $150 million since 2013 towards the development of new, more sustainable materials for its trademark LEGO bricks, as well as its plastic packaging materials. This effort to shift away from oil-based materials is being spearheaded by the organization’s LEGO Sustainable Materials Centre in Billund, Denmark, with the overall goal of completely switching to sustainable materials in all of its products and packaging by 2030.

            From a business context, environmental stewardship is increasing in importance both from a social good standpoint and in terms of a company’s bottom line. Increasingly, the consumer public is becoming more and more willing to call companies out for not putting the interests of the environment and public before other concerns. This is a reality that The LEGO Group experienced firsthand in 2014 when an aggressive social campaign by environmental activist group Greenpeace pressured the company into ending its decades-old partnership with oil and gas company Royal Dutch Shell. With the pressure of the world at-large, The LEGO Group discovered it must adapt itself to better accommodate the natural environment or else face the ire of scornful consumers, hence the millions in investments towards this cause.

            Years down the line the from their initial commitment, the first large-scale deliverable is finally coming from the LEGO Group in a particularly fitting form. From 2018 onwards, all LEGO pieces that resemble greenery (including leaves, bushes, and trees) are going to be made from plastic sourced from sugarcane, as opposed to an oil-based plastic. This represents the first example of the company’s 2030 commitment. The primary problem with switching LEGO bricks to new component materials lies in the company’s reputation of quality in its trademark bricks. A complex supply chain problem is presented in the goal of completely switching all LEGO bricks to sustainable source materials, but the Dutch group is continuing to signal its undying commitment to that goal.

            Tim Brooks, the LEGO Group’s vice president of environmental responsibility, promised that the new LEGO green pieces would not present any noticeable change in quality as the “plant-based polyethylene has the same properties as conventional polyethylene” and that the new elements have been tested to meet the company’s notably high quality standards. Although it may represent a small component of the company’s overall 2030 goal, the LEGO Group does seem to be placing the first (environmentally friendly) pieces of what will hopefully become a much greener set of operations and products.

 

Appears in
2018 - Spring - Issue 10
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