LEGO Unveils 100% Recyclable Plastic Bricks

Image: Ralf Roletschek via Wikimedia Commons

by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer

Master builders and environmentalists everywhere have a new reason to celebrate as the LEGO Group introduces a big new project. Well, actually, it’s pretty small. The company has unveiled a new prototype LEGO brick made of 100% recycled plastic, putting it one step closer to reaching its goal of 100% sustainable materials by 2030. LEGO, one of the world’s largest toymakers, has relied on plastic to inspire imaginative building for decades, but now, they’re hoping to inspire change.

Why This Matters: 90% of today’s toys are made with plastic, and LEGO is one of the largest offenders. The company has produced over 400 billion LEGO pieces, the equivalent of 62 bricks per person on Earth. According to Nathan Sawaya, a world-renowned LEGO Master Model Builder:

But when plastic is discarded, it almost always ends up in landfills. The COVID-19 pandemic worsened the world’s recycling crisis when families ordered toys en masse to combat lockdown boredom, and waste management systems were overwhelmed. LEGO has already implemented a reuse and recycling program that the company says saves up to 80% of the resources needed to create new bricks. Making their bricks 100% sustainable is a significant step toward carbon neutrality, and it could send a message to other major toy producers, like Mattel and Hasbro, that recycling traditional plastic isn’t enough.

Building Something New

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,” said Tim Brooks, LEGO Group Vice President of Environmental Responsibility. “With this prototype, we’re able to showcase the progress we’re making.” The prototype is made of Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic from discarded bottles.

 According to LEGO, a one-liter PET soda bottle can produce ten 2×4 LEGO bricks. 

LEGO says it will be a while before the new bricks are on shelves. The company says it’s still formulating the perfect PET, specifically figuring out how to achieve the same bright colors that builders have come to know and love. Additionally, pilot production is expected to take at least one year.

Last year, LEGO announced it would make a $400 million investment into sustainability initiatives, including removing single-use plastic bags from its packaging. CEO Niels B. Christiansen said that this investment is a response to a generation of kids crying out for urgent climate action. Brooks says that this innovation is just one more way LEGO is working to inspire that generation, “experimentation and failing is an important part of learning and innovation. Just as kids build, un-build, and rebuild with LEGO bricks at home, we’re doing the same in our lab.”

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