Lego has decided not to make its famous bricks from recycled plastic bottles. The Danish toy company claims that the new bricks, which they began manufacturing in 2021 as part of their environmental plan, create more pollution than the originals and, therefore, they will not continue manufacturing them.
The original materials were created with petroleum-based plastic but they began to look for new materials to use in order to make their famous bricks in a more sustainable way. However, Lego's sustainability manager, Tim Brooks, explained to the Financial Times, that the machines necessary to process and dry the new material create more pollution than the process previously used.
He explained that RPET (plastic with which the new parts are manufactured) is softer than ABS (plastic used with bricks created from petroleum). Therefore, it needs more ingredients to be able to offer resistance similar to that of the original bricks, something that, he said, is equivalent to "trying to make a bike out of wood rather than steel." He said:
In order to scale production [of recycled PET], the level of disruption to the manufacturing environment was such that we needed to change everything in our factories. After all that, the carbon footprint would have been higher. It was disappointing.
Sustainability is essential for Lego
Despite this failure, the company is not giving up and announced that it will continue investing in creating more sustainable materials. According to Lego CEO Niels Christiansen, in 2021, the company had more than 150 people working in the sustainability department who "tested hundreds and hundreds of materials" but could not find a "magic material" to solve the sustainability issue. However, they will continue to try, although gradually. Christiansen said:
It’s not going from being 0 to 100 percent sustainable from one day to the next, but you start with elements of it being based on either biomaterials or recycled materials. Maybe it’s 50 percent, or 30 percent, or 70 percent based on that.
Even so, the executive director told the Financial Times that the company has its eyes set on 2032. He explained that, by then, the toy company hopes to reduce emissions by 37% compared to 2019 by using only sustainable materials that do not include recycled plastic bottles.