Overnight The Lego Group, makers of popular plastic toy bricks and plates, announced that they are investing even more money into sustainability, including switching to paper bags and ditching the plastic ones.
The “up to” $AUD548 million ($US400m) investment over three years will be split between making all their packaging sustainable by 2025, creating more sustainable products, achieving zero waste and carbon neutral operations, and “inspiring children to learn about sustainability through play”.
Lego’s first step will be replacing all the single-use plastic bags inside Lego boxes with paper bags. Lego has apparently been working on this behind the scenes for years, testing 15 different materials with hundreds of children. These bags will be trialled more widely in 2021, with the hope that they will be in all sets from 2025.
Some adult fans are already complaining on social media that these bags aren’t see-through, which will make it harder to scout them in op shops later.
Lego Group CEO Niels B Christiansen said in a statement that the move had been inspired by letters from children. “It’s critical we take urgent action now to care for the planet and future generations. As a company who looks to children as our role models, we are inspired by the millions of kids who have called for more urgent action on climate change. We believe they should have access to opportunities to develop the skills necessary to create a sustainable future. We will step up our efforts to use our resources, networks, expertise and platforms to make a positive difference.”
The biggest challenge when coming up with the new design was finding bags that were durable, light weight and “enhanced the building experience”. These bags have been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, which guarantees that the paper comes from responsibly managed forests.
While that was the biggest announcement of the day, the others are no less significant in the long run. Part of that investment will go towards expanding the Lego System In Play program, which allows people to return their used bricks and have them given to children in need. This is great, because reusing is always more environmentally friendly than recycling, and all Lego bricks from the last 40+ years are compatible with each other. That program was rolled out in the USA in 2019, overseeing the donation of bricks to 23,000 children and will be expanded to two additional countries in 2022 (with more to follow).
Currently, almost 2% of Lego elements are made out of sugarcane, instead of traditional plastic. In 2015, Lego set a target to have all of their products made out of sustainable materials by 2030, and part of this money is going towards that. Some money will also be going towards making Lego’s manufacturing operations carbon neutral by 2022, improving waste handling and reducing water consumption. Their plan is to have no waste diverted to landfill by 2025 and reduce water usage by 10% by 2022.
While a lot of people say the worst thing about Lego is stepping on it, from a usage perspective, it’s actually the waste. Technically, those scrunchable plastics can be recycled now through special bins in select supermarkets, but there’s no evidence that they actually do get recycled. While paper bags might still end up in landfill, they at least have a better chance of fully breaking down without inadvertently choking a turtle. I build a lot of Lego, and feel horrifically guilty about the amount of single use plastics I throw away because of it. So, I fully welcome this move. But what do you think?