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Sustainable Lego botanical elements

Lego confirms sustainable plant-based bricks for sale in 2018

Image credit: Lego Group

Danish toymaker Lego – which has beaten Mattel to become the largest in the world by revenue – has confirmed that it will begin manufacturing “botanical elements” using a sustainable material.

Lego will be manufacturing leaves, bushes and trees to be sold in its packs beginning this year. These botanical elements will account for one to two per cent of the total plastic elements produced by the toy manufacturer.

The new bricks will be made from a plastic sourced from sugarcane: plant-based polyethylene. The sugarcane will be sourced sustainably in accordance with guidance from the Bioplastic Feedstock Alliance. The material is soft, durable and flexible and Lego executives have reassured consumers that they will be technically identical to Lego pieces made using conventional polyethylene, a petroleum-based plastic.

“At the Lego group, we want to make a positive impact on the world around us and are working hard to make great play products for children using sustainable materials,” said Tim Brooks, VP for environmental sustainability at the Lego group.

“We are proud that the first Lego elements made from sustainably sourced plastic are in production and will be in Lego boxes this year. This is a great first step in our ambitious commitment of making all Lego bricks using sustainable materials.”

Lego is aiming to reach zero waste in its operations by 2030 and it states that it already recycles 90 per cent of its waste. In 2015, it established the Lego Sustainable Materials Centre to develop sustainable materials for its products and packaging. It has partnered with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to support its sustainably sourced plastic initiative.

Today’s news is the first result of the Lego Group’s pledge in 2015 regarding its environmental credentials, when it announced that it would invest one billion Danish Krone (DKK) in research to find new sustainable materials for its products.

Lego has taken actions to demonstrate its social responsibility before, such as with the launch of its ‘Research Institute’ set, featuring female figures as scientists. This is largely thought to be in response to criticism of its female figures, which often conformed to gender stereotypes. In its 2010 Progress Report, Lego stated that it would not manufacture toy sets which included realistic weapons and military equipment in order to avoid glorifying conflict.

The company has also branched out in recent years into producing increasingly complex new kits, such as those in the Lego Creator range, which produces elaborate, highly accurate and realistic results of well-known, real-world objects such as the VW Camper Van or the Taj Mahal.

Lego also partnered with Cuusoo System in Japan to pursue Lego Ideas, a crowdsourcing platform where Lego enthusiasts can suggest new kits. This collaborative approach has resulted in such striking Lego sets as the Ghostbusters range, Back To The Future, The Big Bang Theory, The Beatles' Yellow Submarine and the Nasa Apollo Saturn V model Lego kit, built and reviewed by E&T last year.

E&T visited the Lego factory in Denmark in 2009 for an exclusive tour of the design and manufacturing facility.

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