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Recycled plastic: not always more sustainable?

Toy brick company LEGO will no longer produce bricks made from recycled plastic bottles, because the process would lead to more carbon emissions than the current oil-based manufacturing process.

In 2021, LEGO announced they were planning to replace the current acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) bricks in part for recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET). However, they found this would require new machinery that could harm the environment, as well as more steps in the production process. In addition, in the end, the PET plastic bricks were not sturdy enough and could not hold together, so the material would require additives. However, a spokesperson of LEGO said that not using rPET does not mean LEGO is abandoning its mission to make LEGO bricks from sustainable materials by 2032.

In 2018, LEGO began producing components from bio-polyethylene (bio-PE), derived from sugarcane. Many LEGO kits contain bio-PE components, suitable for producing smaller, softer parts like trees, branches, leaves, and mini figure accessories. However, bio-PE cannot be used to create tougher, more durable materials like the current LEGO bricks.

Photos: LEGO