Lego, a brand synonymous with childhood and imaginative play, recently hit a snag in its pursuit of sustainability. After an ambitious attempt to shift from petroleum-based plastics to recycled PET plastic, the Danish toymaker discovered that this initiative did not adequately reduce its carbon footprint.
This development, reported by Bloomberg, stemmed from the fact that recycled PET—derived from discarded plastic bottles—demanded significant new production infrastructure, which in turn did not curtail the overall CO2 emissions.
Historically, the bulk of the iconic Lego bricks, around 80% of the staggering 60 billion pieces produced annually, were made of ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene). This material, found in everyday products like computer keyboards and other plastic products, is petroleum-centric. To put it in perspective, producing approximately 2.2 pounds of this plastic necessitates about 4.4 pounds of petroleum.
This pivot away from recycled PET means that Lego's years of research, involving over 150 dedicated professionals, won't see immediate fruition. However, the company is already eyeing alternative sustainable materials, such as e-methanol, sourced from renewable energy.
In line with global sustainability movements, Lego has sketched a roadmap for the future. By 2050, the company aspires to attain complete carbon neutrality. Intermediate goals include achieving a 37% emissions reduction between 2019 and 2032—a commitment that's backed by a substantial investment of $1.2 billion over the next four years.
To achieve this, Lego is not only investing in research but also in infrastructure, including the construction of a $1 billion carbon-neutral facility sprawled across 1.7 million square feet in Chesterfield County, Virginia. Upon completion, the factory will be powered by an on-site solar park. Furthermore, another net-zero production facility is underway in Vietnam, representing an additional $1 billion investment and set to commence operations by 2024.
Beyond manufacturing, Lego's commitment to the community shines through in initiatives like "Reply," introduced in 2019. This program, available in the US and Canada, encourages customers to donate their used Lego bricks. Once collected, these toys are refurbished and then distributed to underprivileged children.