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Lego Abandons One of Its Research Projects Focused on Making “Oil-Free Bricks”

Lego Abandons One of Its Research Projects Focused on Making “Oil-Free Bricks”

“Sustainability” goals were at odds with effective manufacture of toys that worked. The process also led to higher carbon emissions.

Fossil fuels are essential to modern life, as they are used to make plastics.

Legos are one of the most ubiquitous plastics found in American homes with kids. My son had boxes and boxes of Legos as a child. Building the “Avatar Last Airbender Fire Nation Ship” together was one of the most traumatic experiences I had mothering. I glued that ship together because I would never build it again.

It turns out the makers of Legos have learned their own valuable lesson…about allowing corporate-level wokesters to make important manufacturing decisions.

Danish Toymaker Lego has abandoned its most high-profile effort to ditch oil-based plastics from its bricks after finding that its new material led to higher carbon emissions, the Financial Times reported on Sunday.

Lego found that bricks made from recycled polyethylene terephthalate (RPET), would lead to higher carbon emissions.

“We tested hundreds and hundreds of materials. It’s just not been possible to find a material like that,” Lego Chief Executive Niels Christiansen told the Financial times.

Apparently, “sustainability” goals were at odds with the effective manufacture of toys that worked.

Lego’s change of tactics highlights the difficult decisions facing companies on sustainability where different targets such as eliminating the use of fossil fuels and reducing carbon emissions can come into conflict.

The Danish toymaker initially had a target of eliminating all petroleum-based plastics in the 20 or so materials it uses in its play sets by 2030. It made a quick start in 2018 by swapping out oil-based polyethylene for a plant-based version of the same plastic that it uses in about 20 different pieces including trees and bushes.

It is also on track to eliminate single-use plastic bags used in packaging its bricks by 2025 with many current sets featuring paper containers instead.

But replacing ABS, a plastic that makes the bricks durable as well as easy to put together and pull apart — what the toymaker calls “clutch power” — has proved far harder.

However, Lego made one important discovery: You can’t create plastic using magical new compounds that don’t exist.

Meanwhile, Energy Portal reported that Lego’s decision to continue with oil-based plastics shows the difficulties of transitioning from conventional plastic materials to sustainable alternatives.

“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,” Lego’s CEO said. “But that does not seem to be there. We tested hundreds and hundreds of materials. It’s just not been possible to find a material like that.”

The company has already made a massive investment in its green goals.

Lego told The Post it would be looking into other solutions, such as e-methanol — which is produced from renewable energy sources — adding that PET is just “one of hundreds of different sustainable materials.”

The Danish toymaker has set a goal to be CO2 neutral by 2050, with an interim target to reach a 37% emissions reduction from 2019 to 2032 — and is spending an eye-watering sum of $1.2 billion over the next four years in order to achieve this.

Lego has already invested more than $1 billion in a carbon-neutral, 1.7 million square-foot factory that will employ nearly 2,000 people in Chesterfield County, Va., located just south of the state capital.

Legos were great for my son, and we made many wonderful memories during our visits to Legoland in Carlsbad. However, it takes a heart of stone not to laugh…especially when I have covered the importance of plastics in our society and the pseudoscience falsely smearing carbon dioxide as toxic to our planet.

I wish the company tons of good luck in its quest to create a toy that works in a profitable manner.


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IIRC the original LEGOs were made out of wood.

Just want to point out this is a *good* decision by Lego, in an age where far too many eco-warriors are willing to burn a brand to the ground to save (fill in Cause-Of-The-Week here). All manufacturing companies have constant effort put forward to push the better-faster-cheaper triangle as much in their favor as possible, and that includes changing formulation and process to see if tiny fractions of improvement can be made without sacrificing larger sections elsewhere. Plastics manufacturing is no exception. They have a lot of waste with long-chain polymers and alphabet soup labels that take expensive processes for disposal. If they find a process that turns pine trees into bricks with the same quality and less waste, more power to them. Just glad to see they’re being sensible instead of sporting green fever.

is spending an eye-watering sum of $1.2 billion over the next four years
One thing to consider with this is how it also operates as a barrier to entry for smaller companies. It’s great the company is spending its own monies to figure out how to make its products in accord with its own beliefs. But when this stuff is mandated, it’s a way of excluding smaller companies – how many competitors of Lego can match its ecological religious purity by spending that much money?

People forget that the reason Ford chose to use gas for his car is that it was a cheap waste product from other things that oil was was being used for.

As an aside, show your children Avatar The Last Airbender. It’s good!

The Gentle Grizzly | September 27, 2023 at 12:45 pm

I still remember Erector Sets. All those little parts to swallow.

Trying to make plastic without oil is about as doable as trying to eliminate all the carbon dioxide on Earth. At least the former will not lead to the extinction of mankind, but it will indo civilization as we know it.

As long as idiots continue to believe mankind is destroying the planet, mankind will never advance forward.

    henrybowman in reply to chrisboltssr. | September 27, 2023 at 2:29 pm

    Apple products are usually considered high quality, but their cables are crap… because in a fit of greensanity, they committed to making them with PCB-free methods. Lacking the flexibility of much cheaper PCB-laden cables from China, they deteriorate, crack, and become non-functional in short order.

    Similarly manufacturers of specialty wiring (auto wiring included) have moved from plastic insulation to “innovative” insulation made with starches, hemp, soy, and the like. Rodents love the new insulation, to the point where you can get in your car to go to work in the morning and find that whole harness assemblies, spark plug wires, etc., have been stripped and eaten overnight, making your car useless.

      chrisboltssr in reply to henrybowman. | September 27, 2023 at 6:18 pm

      It’s like the nonsense when it comes to straws. Who in their right mind thinks drinking through a degradable cardboard tube us better than drinking through a plastic straw? We keep doing insane things to “save the planet” even though most of us know these things are insane (and it’s even more insane to think we’re destroying the planet).

        AF_Chief_Master_Sgt in reply to chrisboltssr. | September 28, 2023 at 8:55 am

        I recently watched a “Reel” that was sent to me by my daughter.

        It features a woman who goes into a high priced “Foods” store to purchase groceries.

        Shopper: So, help me understand. I buy a loaf of bread wrapped in plastic, milk in a plastic container, salad in a plastic bowl, celery, lettuce, and carrots in plastic wrap, sliced cheese and meat in plastic baggies, and lots of other foods in plastic containers. But when I get to the check out line, I can’t get a plastic bag to carry it in because plastic is bad for the environment.

        This explains the stupidity of the eco warriors.

Why not holographic, virtual bricks mated to virtual reality gloves for that hands on experience, without the clutter and mass extinction risk?

The Greenies are finding out that petroleum is almost a basic need in our lives. If there was a way to show all of the everyday things that we depend on that had petroleum in them and they were removed, it would be a shocker to most of us. The mind-blowing visual fact is that a one-gallon can of petroleum, 6 lbs, can power a huge truck about ten miles. To do that with any other fuel is not even close. Batteries, at a low charge, would weigh in at about 2900 lbs for a Hummer EV and then it is never certain how many miles it can go because there is no real fuel gauge for batteries.
Petroleum’s replacement has not been found yet.

Make them foot-puncturing-in-the-middle-of-the-free and they might be on to something

Seems like they had to decide to Lego *that* plan !

If they really wanted to eliminate their earth-destroying effects, they’d simply close down the business.