Toy Giant Lego Creates Bricks From Recycled Plastic

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Lego’s bricks are usually made from a kind of plastic called ABS lending its ‘clutch power’ to the product. As part of its first step to use sustainable materials in its products, the company unveiled a prototype brick developed using PET plastic from discarded bottles.

Danish company Lego which means ‘play well’ in English, now wants to play better–for the planet, at least. In an effort to shift to sustainability, a team of 150+ people are working to find environmentally-friendly alternatives to make its products.

Recycled PET Plastic

Over the past three years, materials scientists and engineers have trialled 250+ variations of PET materials and hundreds of other plastic formulations.

For this particular prototype, the company’s partners sourced the bottles made from PET plastic. These suppliers follow the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) approved processes thus ensuring quality in the bricks. It is then grounded to flakes.

The cleaned granules then undergo an innovative process to strengthen the material. After being tested for its mechanical properties, it is tested for quality, safety, play requirements like clutch power and performance. The bricks follow a rigorous testing protocol to assess whether they are strong and ideal to be used in play. The test materials are stood on and dropped from a height as part of the process.

In addition, Lego uses a compounding technology to combine the recycled PET with strengthening additives.

At the moment, the company is figuring out how the patent-pending material formulation can be coloured. The next phase of testing will take place over a year’s time. After a thorough assessment, it will be decided whether pilot production should commence. If the material meets all the requirements, Lego aims to include these new pieces in the sets within two years’ time.

On an average, 1-litre plastic bottle makes 10 4×2 Lego bricks.

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

Tim Brooks, vice president of Environmental Responsibility at the LEGO Group
Source:Lego

Read: Adidas Builds Football Field Using 1.8 Million Recycled Plastic Bottles

“We are super excited about this breakthrough,” vice president of Environmental Responsibility at the LEGO Group, Tim Brooks said in a statement. “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.”

Source: Lego

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

Tim Brooks, vice president of Environmental Responsibility at the LEGO Group

Adapting to sustainability

Apart from this recycled prototype brick, last year Lego announced that it will start eliminating single-use plastic from its boxes.

In 2018, it began manufacturing elements from bio-polyethylene (bio-PE), derived from sustainably sourced sugarcane. Several Lego sets now have bio-PE elements which can be used for building smaller pieces like trees, branches, leaves, and accessories for mini-figures. At the moment, it isn’t ideal for making the harder and stronger elements like the main bricks.

Brooks added: “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.”

The Lego Group has committed to investing US$400 million over three years till 2022 to realize its sustainability goals.

Read: These 8 Material Science & Circular Tech Startups Are Innovating For A Plastic-Free World


Lead image courtesy of Lego.


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