A study from the University of Plymouth suggests that LEGO bricks could survive in the ocean for 1,300 years.
LEGO elements have been washing up on the coast of Cornwall, UK, since a container of LEGO bricks fell into the sea 23 years ago. The environmental impact is damaging to the marine ecosystem, with new research showing that these LEGO pieces could last for 1,300 years.
The University of Plymouth has conducted research to see how the pieces wear down in a marine environment. The researchers measured the mass of bricks found on beaches and compared it to unused pieces, with the results showing that the elements should last between 100 and 1,300 years.
Heritage Daily reports on the research published in Environmental Pollution, that saw 50 pieces of weathered LEGO collected from beaches weighed and measured. Researchers compared the data to that of the original bricks from the era to see how much they had degraded and suggest how much longer they might continue in the marine environment.
“LEGO is one of the most popular children’s toys in history and part of its appeal has always been its durability. It is specifically designed to be played with and handled, so it may not be especially surprising that despite potentially being in the sea for decades it isn’t significantly worn down. However, the full extent of its durability was even a surprise to us,” said Dr Andrew Turner, Associate Professor (Reader) in Environmental Sciences.
“The pieces we tested had smoothed and discoloured, with some of the structures having fractured and fragmented, suggesting that as well as pieces remaining intact they might also break down into microplastics. It once again emphasises the importance of people disposing of used items properly to ensure they do not pose potential problems for the environment.”