Plant-based polyethylene currently account for 1-2% of the plastic pieces produced by Lego ©Maria Tuxen Hedegaard/Lego
Plant-based polyethylene currently account for 1-2% of the plastic pieces produced by Lego ©Maria Tuxen Hedegaard/Lego

Lego switches to plant-based plastic

Lego has started using polymer from plants in some of its toys as part of a move away from oil-based plastics.

The Danish firm’s first bioplastic offering is made from sugarcane and will be used in “botanical” elements including leaves, bushes and trees.

The bioplastics are set to appear in stores later this year as Lego moves towards sustainable raw materials in all its products by 2030, a goal it first announced in 2012.

Tim Brooks, vice president of environmental responsibility at Lego said: “We are proud that the first Lego elements made from sustainably sourced plastic are in production and will be in Lego boxes later this year. This is a great first step in our ambitious commitment of making all Lego bricks using sustainable materials.”

The new elements are still polyethylene, one of the most commonly used polymers, but it is made from ethanol produced from sugarcane instead of hydrocarbons. Lego said the new pieces are technically identical to the oil-based plastics they replace. “Children and parents will not notice any difference in the quality or appearance of the new elements, because plant-based polyethylene has the same properties as conventional polyethylene,” said Brooks.

Plant-based polyethylene elements currently account for 1-2% of the plastic pieces produced by Lego.

Lego said it had joined the Bioplastic Feedstock Alliance, an initiative by the environmental NGO the WWF, to ensure the raw materials for its bioplastics are sustainably sourced.

The firm said any new sustainable materials needed an “ever-lighter footprint” than the materials they replaced in a number of key areas, including social impact, fossil fuel use, human rights and climate change.

In 2015 Lego announced plans to find sustainable alternatives to all of the materials it uses, including its iconic plastic bricks. At the time the firm also announced it was investing 1bn Danish krone ($165m) into a Sustainable Materials Centre to research alternatives.

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