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Danish toy giant Lego Group says it’s investing more than $1 billion into a carbon-neutral toy factory in Virginia.
More than 1,700 jobs and enough solar energy to match all of the factory’s needs are just two of the highlights of the new 1.7 million square foot facility.
Lego’s carbon-neutral factory
The new factory, which will break ground later this year, is expected to be operational by mid-2025. The facility will minimize its energy consumption and reduce its use of non-renewable resources for a carbon-neutral facility. All energy will be provided by an on-site solar “park.” Lego says it will also shorten its supply chain and support its expansion across the region.
“This is an exciting step for the Lego Group. More and more families are falling in love with Lego building and we are looking forward to making Lego bricks in the U.S., one of our largest markets,” Niels B. Christiansen, CEO, the Lego Group said in a statement. “The location in Virginia allows us to build a solar park which supports our sustainability ambitions and provides easy links to country-wide transportation networks. We are also looking forward to creating fantastic employment opportunities for the people of Virginia.”
Lego ended its U.S. production more than 15 years ago, in 2006, shifting production to Mexico after it shut down its Enfield, Conn., facility. At the time, the toy giant cited lagging sales as a result of children prioritizing electronic toys.
But the toy market has come full circle, with parents now aiming to keep children off of devices and electronic toys for longer periods. That’s led to a boom for toy companies like Lego. In addition to the U.S. facility, it’s expanding its other North American location in Monterrey, Mexico.
“Our factories are located close to our biggest markets which shortens the distance our products have to travel,” Carsten Rasmussen, Chief Operations Officer, the LEGO Group said in a statement. “This allows us to rapidly respond to changing consumer demand and helps manage our carbon footprint. Our new factory in the US and expanded capacity at our existing site in Mexico means we will be able to best support long-term growth in the Americas.”
The expansion efforts are extending to Europe and China, including a new site in Vietnam, which will also be carbon-neutral.
Last June, Lego revealed a first peek at bricks made from recycled plastic, a move it called its latest step on its sustainability journey. The bricks were made with PET plastic from discarded bottles and the first to meet the company’s quality and safety requirements.
According to Lego, a team of more than 150 people are working to find sustainable solutions for the manufacturer.
“We are super excited about this breakthrough,” Vice President of Environmental Responsibility at the Lego Group, Tim Brooks said last year 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.”
The recycled brick earned Lego a spot on Time Magazine’s 100 best inventions of 2021 list. The company expects all of its bricks to be made from recycled material by 2030.
In 2020, Lego announced it was replacing plastic bags inside its boxes with paper ones—a move it says was motivated by letters from children urging the toy giant to reduce its plastic use.
“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,” Brooks said. “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.”
Lead Photo by Ravi Palwe on Unsplash