Innovation

How Lego is reducing plastic without compromising its product

Matthew Elmas /

Sustainability has become a pillar of corporate social responsibility in recent years, prompting businesses large and small to change their processes and products to reduce plastic waste.

From eyewear made from sustainable wood to organic farming techniques, there is no shortage of businesses riding the green wave.

Many large companies such as Coles and Woolworths have also taken their own steps to reduce their use of plastic — but what happens when plastic is essentially the product itself?

Enter Lego, which has been producing plastic bricks for kids to play with since the 1940s.

Unsurprisingly, the Danish toy giant churns through a fair bit of plastic, pumping out 100 million pieces of Lego from its mega factory in Denmark each day.

But times are changing, and so is Lego. The company has committed to building its toys entirely from plant-based or recycled materials by 2030.

There’s just one problem though — the company still isn’t quite sure how it’s going to do it.

In a recent interview with the New York Times, Lego’s vice president for environmental responsibility, Tim Brooks, said the company was committed to achieving its goal.

“It is important,” Brooks said, “that we can make a toy that doesn’t jeopardize [children’s future].”

The company is investing about 1 billion Kroner ($2.18 billion) into hiring 100 or so people to work on the changes.

Technicians and scientists are trying to figure out a way to produce a sustainable product, without making any compromises on the quality of Lego’s products.

The plan is to develop the same product in a different way. Blocks need to click together and separate easily, retain their signature bright colours and endure the usual stuff, such as accidental trips through the laundry.

Hundreds of alternatives have already been experimented with, including bioplastics derived from sugar-cane husks in certain types of Lego.

But while a solution for the company’s mainstay block products remains elusive, executives are reportedly determined to see the task through.

If it works, the four-story Lego tree located outside the company’s offices in Denmark could take on a whole new type of realism.

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Matthew Elmas

Matthew is the news editor at SmartCompany.

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