The prototype 2×4 brick uses PET from discarded plastic bottles, and is the first and only element of its kind to meet the company’s stringent safety and quality requirements. A team of over 150 people have spent three years testing more than 250 types of PET materials to find a sustainable solution for producing LEGO bricks.
“We are super excited about this breakthrough,” said the LEGO Group’s Vice President of Environmental Responsibility, Tim Brooks. “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. With this prototype we’re able to showcase the progress we’re making.”
Don’t expect to see LEGO elements made from recycled plastic in sets any time soon, though: this is really just the first proof-of-concept phase. Over the next year, the team will continue to develop and test the current formulation – which increases the durability of PET using ‘strengthening additives’ – before taking it to the pilot production phase.
“We know kids care about the environment and want us to make our products more sustainable,” Tim said. “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. 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 PET used to create the prototype element has been sourced from suppliers that abide by US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) standards. A single-litre plastic bottle provides roughly enough material to make 10 2×4 bricks.
This milestone marks the latest step in the LEGO Group’s drive towards sustainability, with the ultimate aim of making all its products sustainable by 2030. The company is currently midway through a three-year plan to invest $400 million to meet that ambitious target, which also includes making its packaging entirely sustainable by 2025.
Recent sustainability announcements include plans to test paper packaging inside LEGO boxes, and the company’s ‘plants from plants’ initiative, which has led to more and more elements produced using bio-polyethylene – a compound sourced from sugarcane.
Click here to learn more about the recycled 2×4 brick from Tim and Vice President of Materials Nelleke Van Der Puil, including how it may transform the existing element library.