Going green and using sustainable production methods and materials is creeping into every part of society - from hybrid cars, to LEED buildings and even now children's toys. Famed Danish toymaker Lego announced on Tuesday that it will invest over $170 million in finding sustainable materials for toys and packaging, including a replacement for the oil-based plastic used in its iconic building blocks.
“It’s a big step in the right direction in achieving our ambition of sustainable materials by 2030,” said Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, CEO of the Lego Group.
“We have already taken important steps to reduce our CO2 emissions and do something positive for the environment by reducing box sizes and investing in an offshore wind farm. Now, we are shifting our focus towards our materials.”
The initiative will see Lego create a ‘Lego Sustainable Materials Centre’ in Berlin, where more than 100 specialists will work on research and improvements to production methods.
Lego’s biggest shareholder Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen called the move an important and necessary step forward for the company.
“The investment is a testament to our continued ambition to have a positive impact on the world our future generations will inherit,” he said.
Kristiansen, a descendant of Lego's founder, pointed out that the plan is largely in line with Lego Group’s mission statement and fits with the motto of his grandfather, Ole Kirk Kristiansen that "only the best is good enough."
While the move is a giant step forward for the company, it has a significant challenge on its hands. The toymaker produces an average of 60 billion bricks per year and has already been working to find alternatives to oil-based plastic since 2012.
The technical challenge for Lego is to find a plastic material that is just as color-responsive yet physically as stable as the current petroleum-based Lego bricks.
“Several factors affect the environmental sustainability of materials. When we’re looking for new materials, all factors are included,” Knudstorp said.