Danish toy manufacturer LEGO is world renowned for producing colorful, plastic bricks, but the brand has recently become more eco-friendly. In 2018, the company developed its first-ever sustainable collection made from sugarcane; and now, LEGO has come even further in its mission to reduce plastic waste. The brand recently released a prototype brick made from recycled plastic bottles—the first of LEGO’s products made from a recycled material.
A team of over 150 people have been working over the past three years on developing the prototype. They tested over 250 PET materials (polyethylene terephthalate) and many other plastic formulas in order to find a material that meets LEGO’s quality and safety standards. They finally settled on using PET plastic from discarded bottles in the United States. On average, a one-liter plastic PET bottle provides enough raw material for ten 2 x 4 LEGO bricks. To make them, the recycled plastic is compounded with strengthening additives using bespoke technology.
“We are super excited about this breakthrough,” says Tim Brooks, vice president of environmental responsibility at the LEGO Group. “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.” He adds, “With this prototype we’re able to showcase the progress we’re making.”
Despite the exciting news, it will still be some time before we see LEGO’s recycled plastic bricks on store shelves. Before the prototype is approved for production, further tests need to be done, which could take around a year. “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,” says Brooks. “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 recycled plastic brick is a huge accomplishment for LEGO, which is committed to building a sustainable future. The company has promised to invest up to $400 million over three years in order to fund its eco-friendly initiatives. “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,” says Brooks. “We still have a long way to go on our journey but are pleased with the progress we’re making.”
Check out the recycled plastic prototype below and find out even more about it on the LEGO website.