Lego, the world’s largest toy maker, recently abandoned its attempt to create a Lego brick out of recycled plastic bottles after finding that using recycled materials produces higher carbon emissions and an inferior product.
In September of 2020, Lego announced that it would invest up to $400 million to accelerate its sustainability goals, aiming to replace its crude oil-based plastic Lego bricks with bricks made from recycled plastic bottles.
After two years working to manufacture a brick that works seamlessly with the oil-based bricks, however, Lego announced that using recycled plastic bottles actually produced higher carbon emissions.
Additionally, finding a sustainable material that creates a brick with the same shine, color, resilience, durability, and iconic sound as the original bricks has also posed a challenge. “We tested hundreds and hundreds of materials. It’s just not been possible to find a material like that,” Lego Chief Executive Niels Christiansen told the Financial Times.
Producing Lego bricks from recycled materials required extra steps, “which meant it needed to use more energy,” a spokesperson for Lego explained to BBC news. The spokesperson added, “We remain fully committed to making Lego bricks from sustainable materials by 2032.”
Despite the setback, Lego’s “long-term aim is to run carbon-neutral operations.” Lego told the BBC that the company will continue to test “a range of alternative sustainable materials.”
Tim Brooks, Lego’s Vice President of Environmental Responsibility, said,
“Long-term emissions reduction is not a straight line, but we’re on the right path. We know the challenge is large and urgent, and we are prepared to do what it takes. We’re making investments and business decisions in sustainable materials innovation, manufacturing technology and our supply chain. These actions combined will increase our carbon footprint in the short term, but will ultimately allow us to hit our target in 2032,” according to Lego’s “CO2 footprint” page.
Danish carpenter Ole Kirk Kristiansen founded Lego in 1932, making wooden toys such as yoyo’s, cars and trains. In 1949, Lego produced a plastic brick, and patented the design in 1958. Several decades later, Lego designed minifigures to accompany the sets, and larger “DUPLO Legos” for younger children.
By the 1970’s, Lego was selling its products internationally. During this time, Lego created themed sets featuring astronauts, pirates, and castles. Lego has also partnered with popular movies such as Star Wars and Harry Potter to create sets featuring the movies’ characters.
Lego has opened ten theme parks, released video games, and produced several movies about Lego characters.
Lego’s brand value was $7.4 billion in 2023, marking its ninth year in a row as the number one toy company in the world.
The word “Lego” is an abbreviation of two Danish words, “leg godt,” which means “play well.” Lego’s website states that “it’s our name and it’s our ideal.” The company’s motto, created by Lego’s founder, is “only the best is good enough,” which Lego upholds to this day.
Kristiansen’s grandson, Kjeld Kirk Krisitiansen, now owns the company.