Lego Gives Up Latest Effort to Go Green

Lewis Tse /
Lewis Tse /

Legos: they have to be one of the children’s favorite toys. I mean, who doesn’t know a child who doesn’t like to build things, imagine all sorts of creations, and then demolish Lego constructions?

But apparently, Lego itself, as in the company that makes the beloved bricks our childhood was built on, doesn’t seem to like its creations so well, at least not anymore.

Like many companies based in Europe, especially in Scandinavia, Lego is left-leaning in nature. Naturally, that means the toy company is now concerned more with the environment and climate change than just about anything else.

This also means that their beloved plastic bricks are problematic. Why? Well, like all plastics, they require oil (the very definition of evil) to be made.

As The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday, “Most Lego pieces are currently made from acrylonitrile butadiene styrene plastic.” Supposedly, this is a very, very bad thing…

And so, the company is trying to devise a different way or product to create their bricks from.

The first idea was to use a bioplastic made from sugar cane, which the company has successfully used for a few years now to create some of its “smaller, softer pieces such as trees, branches, leaves and accessories for its minifigures.”

But as the Journal points out, the bioplastic (known as bio-PE) doesn’t work for making the actual bricks. It’s just too soft and therefore isn’t suitable.

On to the next idea.

They tried corn. Those, too, were too soft. And the bricks made from wheat just didn’t look right.

As the Journal notes, the company has tried all sorts of things so far. Some made the bricks too hard, too hard to pull apart, or the materials lost their grip over time.

One promising material was polyethylene terephthalate or PET. Basically, it’s recycled plastic bottles. The idea here was that while the bricks will still be made of the damning plastic construction using oil, these plastics already exist. This means the company supposedly wouldn’t have to use any more oil in the process of making their bricks.

They already have the plastics. So, they’d simply melt them down and reconfigure them. Sounds simple enough, right?

Plus, it would be ridding the planet of the all too many plastic bottles that get thrown out and are building up around the world.

But as The Wall Street Journal reported, that idea has also failed.

“Lego is scrapping plans to make its toy bricks from recycled plastic bottles after determining that switching to the material would result in it producing higher carbon emissions.”

Apparently, someone had the bright idea to run some real-life tests and numbers on just how sustainable and efficient changing the production process of the bricks would be.

According to these numbers and tests, the company liked that it could use one one-liter PET bottle to produce around ten of its most used 2×4 stud bricks. It also liked that compared to other materials tested, it seemed to hold similar “quality, durability, and ‘clutch power’ – the name Lego gives to the brick’s ability to lock together with other bricks.”

However, changing to PET plastic would actually cause the company to increase its carbon emissions by adding extra steps that “would use more energy and manufacturing facilities would require retooling.”

Well, we can’t have that…

And so Lego is scrapping yet another idea. On to the next.

According to a Lego representative, they haven’t given up on their goal of “making Lego bricks from sustainable materials by 2032.”

But at least this company is actually looking at reality when it comes to making changes, at least partially. The current pushers of electric vehicles, “renewable” only energies, etc., aren’t doing that at all.

And who knows, maybe Lego will find something that works. In the meantime, kids the world over will be enjoying the beloved bricks just the way they are, evil plastic and all.