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Lego ditches single-use plastics after children demand change

Children wrote letters to ask Lego to get rid of single use plastic.
Children wrote letters to ask Lego to get rid of single use plastic.   -   Copyright  ALLAN RINGGAARD/Allan Ringgaard

Lego has decided to get rid of single-use plastic bags after receiving complaints from young customers.

The Danish toy company has committed to phasing out the plastic bags it currently uses to package bricks from 2021. Forest Stewardship Council-certified recyclable paper bags will start appearing in Lego kits from next year instead.

“We have received many letters from children about the environment asking us to remove single-use plastic packaging,” says CEO, Niels B Christiansen. “We have been exploring alternatives for some time and the passion and ideas from children inspired us to begin to make the change.”

The paper bags already have the approval of children in test groups who liked them because they were environmentally friendly and easy to open.

This change is part of a larger commitment to ensure all of its packing sustainable by 2025 which includes removing all single-use plastic from its products.

Investing in sustainability

Lego has also pledged $400m (€339m) of investment for sustainability and social responsibility initiatives to “build a better planet for future generations”. The toy brick maker says that it is becoming “increasingly urgent and important” to prioritise environmental and social action.

“We cannot lose sight of the fundamental challenges facing future generations,” says Christiansen. “As a company who looks to children as our role models, we are inspired by the millions of kids who have called for more urgent action on climate change.

“We believe they should have access to opportunities to develop the skills necessary to create a sustainable future.”

The paper bags went down well with children when they tested them.ALLAN RINGGAARD/Allan Ringgaard

As well as making the way the company operates more eco-friendly, some of the money will go to educational programmes around the world to help children learn through play.

Through partnerships with UNICEF, Save the Children and other local organisations they hope to provide eight million children with opportunities to develop skills through play.

Plant-based alternatives

LEGO currently uses an estimated 90,000 tonnes of plastic to make its products every year. Much of that goes into making the actual bricks themselves.

If they aren’t disposed of properly, these bricks could last up to 1300 years in our oceans, a study from the University of Plymouth published earlier this year found.

The company has already invested in a Sustainable Materials Centre which has spent the last five years looking at alternative materials including plant-based plastics.

So far it has proven difficult to get the plant-based bricks to stick together and come apart in the same way. Only between 1 and 2 per cent of Lego’s parts - like trees and bushes which don’t need to stick together in the same way, are already made from a plastic created using sugarcane.

The company aims to make all of its colourful construction toys from sustainable materials by 2030.