The LEGO company has been improving its sustainability efforts with the release of new prototype bricks produced from recycled plastic. The innovative LEGO prototype uses PET or polyethylene terephthalate, which is a type of plastic crafted from discarded bottles, to make the world’s first ever recycled LEGO blocks.
Over 250 variants of PET and hundreds other formulations of plastic were evaluated by different engineers and scientists over the course of three years in order to fulfill the criteria needed for absolute safety and quality. Even though one successful prototype has been created, additional work on research and development will be required before official manufacturing can begin. Testing for the following phase is likely to run for at least a year.
Vice President of Environmental Responsibly at the LEGO Company, Tim Brooks, mentioned that the biggest challenge of their journey towards better sustainability was innovating and rethinking new materials that can be as durable, high quality, and strong as their existing LEGO bricks – and could fit with other elements of LEGO that have been made for the past 60 years. They have been able to demonstrate their progress with the first prototype. According to Brookes, while they appear good in photos, the prototype incurs color marbling and lacks the exact clutch force that people would usually find when binding LEGO bricks together.
The new prototype brick is the latest advancement in LEGO’s effort to create more environmentally friendly items so far. Back in 2020, the brand stated that it would stop using single-use plastic in its packaging. Apart from LEGO bricks, they also started manufacturing with bio-polyethylene or bio-PE (which is developed from sugarcanes) components for its much softer pieces including branches, trees, and other minifigures since 2018.
Using recycled materials has its unique set of problems, especially in terms of color reproduction and quality control. However, manufacturing from just enough bio-based polymers and obtaining the best quality may be enough for LEGO to accomplish the whole project.