New sustainable LEGO made from recycled plastic bottles
LEGO is world-renowned for producing colourful, plastic bricks. However, as the world moves away from petroleum-based plastics the company has been looking for more eco-friendly alternatives. Back in 2018, the company developed its first-ever plant-based pieces; and now, LEGO has come even further in its mission to reduce plastic waste. The brand has released a prototype brick made from recycled plastic bottles — the first of LEGO’s products made from recycled material.
The Danish company, which takes its name from the Danish words for “leg godt”, meaning “play well”, makes billions of bricks a year, most of them from a plastic called ABS, helping them to grip together. The new sustainable prototype bricks, however, have been made from PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic from discarded plastic bottles with additives to give them the strength of standard Lego parts.
These new bricks are the result of three years of experiments with 250 variations of materials. The 150 person team working on the project tested the materials until they found ones that met LEGO’s quality and safety standards. They finally settled on using PET plastic from discarded bottles in the United States. On average, every 1-litre plastic bottle used in the process provides enough material for 10 4×2 LEGO bricks.
“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.”
It’ll still be some time before we see LEGO’s recycled plastic bricks on store shelves though. Before the prototype is approved for production, further tests will need to be done, which could take another 6 months.
“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 Tim. “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. LEGO is looking to make their products with a positive impact on the planet, not just with the play they inspire.
Check out the recycled plastic bottle prototype below and learn more about the process in the following infographic.
From plastic bottle to prototype brick
- Our partners source drinking bottles made from PET plastic. These raw materials are ground down into flakes.
- The PET flakes are cleaned to ensure safety and purity and then granulated.
- The cleaned granulate undergoes an innovative process to strengthen the recycled PET and make it suitable for LEGO products.
- The granulate is moulded into test specimens that are evaluated for their mechanical properties.
- Once the team is confident that the material has the right properties, we mould bricks and test them on quality and performance. If they don’t meet our standards, we go back to step 3.
- As with all LEGO bricks, the prototype bricks are further checked for safety, durability, and playability in our quality test labs.
- The testing is far from complete. Among other things, we now need to find out how the material can be coloured.
- Once all necessary tests check out, we start analysingthe production setup needed to manufacture bricks using the new material.
- If all goes well you might one day find a brick made from recycled PET in your LEGO sets!
To find out even more about this new sustainable concept, visit the LEGO website.