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Lego Abandons Plans To Make Bricks From Recycled Plastic Bottles

Danish toy maker Lego is abandoning the idea of making its famous bricks out of recycled plastic instead of from oil-based products, after finding that the recycled material would have more lifetime carbon emissions due to new equipment, Lego's chief executive Niels Christiansen has told the Financial Times.

Two years ago, Lego announced a breakthrough that would allow it to produce its legendary bricks from recycled plastic bottles instead of from oil-based plastic.

Back then, the toy maker was "super excited" about making bricks from recycled polyethylene terephthalate (RPET).

But after two years of estimates about the carbon emissions involving brick production from recycled PET, Lego has found that recycled plastic wasn't the silver bullet for sustainability-either in terms of emissions and energy involved or in terms of durability of the bricks.

Lego currently uses petroleum-derived acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) for its bricks and will be looking now to cut the carbon emissions for ABS and looking into other materials.

Switching from ABS to recycled PET would have to entail changes in the manufacturing process and factories, which would have meant higher carbon emissions overall, Lego's head of sustainability Tim Brooks told FT.

"After all that, the carbon footprint would have been higher. It was disappointing," Brooks said.

Lego will be looking to incorporate more bio-based and recycled material in the ABS used to make the bricks, and to encourage reusing of old sets under the Replay program, the company's executives told FT.

Commenting on the FT article, Lego told Bloomberg via email, "We're currently testing and developing Lego bricks made from a range of alternative sustainable materials, including other recycled plastics and plastics made from alternative sources such as e-methanol."

Earlier this year, Lego and pharmaceutical giant Novo Nordisk reached a deal with renewable firm European Energy to procure methanol produced from renewable energy to replace part of their fossil fuel-derived plastics production.  

Denmark-based European Energy will produce methanol from renewable energy and biogenic CO2, commonly referred to as e-methanol, which will, in turn, be used for plastic production, Lego said in April.

By Charles Kennedy for

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