Lego has announced that its first brick pieces made from plant-based plastic sourced from sugar cane will go on sale later this year. Production has started on the sustainable pieces, which include “botanical elements” like leaves, bushes, and trees. The new pieces are made from polyethylene, a soft and durable plastic, and Lego notes that they are “technically identical to those produced using conventional plastic.” The polyethylene bricks make up about 1 to 2 percent of Lego’s total plastic elements. Lego’s current bricks are made from oil-based plastics.
The company says the move is part of its aim to use sustainable materials in its core products and packaging by 2030. The Danish company has previously invested 1 billion Danish krone ($165 million) for a dedicated Sustainable Materials Centre to research and implement sustainable alternatives to its current products. According to a research report by World Watch Institute in 2015, about 4 percent of global annual consumption of petroleum is used to make plastic. Another 4 percent is used to power plastic-making processes.
Lego has also partnered with WWF to help reduce carbon emissions in its manufacturing and supply chain operations. “It is essential that companies in each industry find ways to responsibly source their product materials and help ensure a future where people, nature, and the economy thrive,” said Alix Grabowski, a senior program officer at WWF in a statement.
Though “sustainable material” can be a loose term, Lego notes that it believes the new material must “have an ever-lighter footprint than the material it replaces.” This is considered across impact areas like fossil fuel use, human rights, and climate change. Lego also has investments in wind power and has introduced paper pulp trays for its Lego advent calendars, which reduces plastic waste in landfills.
If you’ve got loads of Lego bricks laying around you no longer want, Lego recommends donating them. If they’re worn and no longer usable, you can recycle them with regular household plastics.