'Woke' toymaker Lego has discontinued its sustainability effort to manufacture bricks made from recycled plastic. This decision came after discovering recycled plastic was actually contributing to higher carbon emissions, the Financial Times reported on Sunday.
Niels Christiansen, chief executive of Lego, told FT that utilizing recycled polyethylene terephthalate (RPET) for brickmaking would have led to increased carbon emissions over the product's lifetime. He said the reason was primarily due to the need for new machines.
"In the early days, the belief was that it was easier to find this magic material or this new material" that would solve the sustainability issue, Christiansen said, but "that doesn't seem to be there. We tested hundreds and hundreds of materials. It's just not been possible to find a material like that."
In the summer of 2021, Lego first unveiled a sustainable prototype brick made from recycled plastic sourced from US suppliers.
"We are super excited about this breakthrough. The biggest challenge on our sustainability journey is rethinking and innovating new materials that are as durable, strong and high quality as our existing bricks – and fit with LEGO elements made over the past 60 years. With this prototype we're able to showcase the progress we're making," Vice President of Environmental Responsibility at Lego Tim Brooks said in 2021.
FT pointed out, "Lego has instead decided to try to improve the carbon footprint over time of oil-based ABS, which currently needs about 2kg of petroleum to make 1kg of plastic."
Lego's sustainability goal to eliminate all petroleum-based plastics from its bricks by 2030 has hit a roadblock. It raises questions about whether the toymaker knew that its ESG objectives were unattainable from the start.