Lego plans to begin selling the first pieces produced using plant-based plastic this year. The company says that the polyethylene for these botanical-themed elements will be sourced from sugarcane.
Polyethylene is a soft, flexible, and durable type of plastic that the Lego Group currently uses in 1 – 2 % of its elements. The new product range will be a soft, durable, and flexible polyethylene made from ethanol.
The sugarcane used is sourced in accordance with guidance from the Bioplastic Feedstock Alliance and is certified by the Bonsucro Chain of Custody standard for responsibly sourced sugarcane, the Lego Group says. All suppliers must comply with the company’s code of conduct, which has requirements for ethical, environmental, and health and safety standards based on top global guidelines.
In addition, the Lego Group says it works closely with suppliers to ensure life-cycle assessments are conducted, which map the environmental impacts from the production of the bio-based material. The new products include elements such as leaves, bushes, and trees that the company calls “technically identical to those produced using conventional plastic.”
Since 1963, Lego bricks have been made with a strong oil-based plastic called acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, the Guardian reported. “The company recommends that bricks no longer wanted are passed on to others or donated to charity shops or, if worn and no longer suitable for play, recycled as ‘other plastic.’”
Although the definition of a sustainable material varies, the Lego Group defines it as one that has a lighter environmental and social footprint than the material it replaces. Such materials are crucial for the company, which has invested more than $150 million to develop sustainable materials for their products and packaging.
Last month the Lego Group joined the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s How2Recycle program, announcing plans to label the toy packaging for US consumers this year. Other sustainability measures include working with the World Wildlife Fund for Nature to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in manufacturing and supply chain operations, as well as committing to reach zero waste in operations by 2030.
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