Lego Is a Company Haunted by Its Own Plastic

“In the future, they should not make these kinds of announcements until they actually do it,” says Judith Enck, president of Beyond Plastics. Global plastic manufacturing has been projected to double within the subsequent 20 years, in keeping with the World Economic Forum, and but within the US, for instance, advocates declare that the overwhelming majority of plastic, 95 percent, is never recycled.

Paolo Taticchi, a company sustainability knowledgeable at University College London, says Lego could be thought-about “quite credible” in its efforts to decarbonise as a result of the corporate has invested a lot on this endeavor. For occasion, in 2015 Lego put down $155 million to determine a Sustainable Materials Center. Despite the foundering of the rPET work, 150 engineers are nonetheless employed there engaged on different initiatives, the corporate says.

But Taticchi doesn’t mince his phrases. Today, decarbonisation is not only a nice-to-have: “They are not going to survive as an organization if they don’t find a solution.” Incidentally, final month, Lego reported its operating profits had plummeted by 19 percent, the largest dive since 2004.

It’s very onerous to seek out a sensible different to ABS, says Gregg Beckham on the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory. He and colleagues are engaged on a biobased purposeful alternative for ABS. Would it have all of the particular properties required for a high-quality Lego piece? “To be determined,” he says, noting that “multiple companies” are actually engaged on scaling up related know-how.

Awareness is rising of how plastic can persist within the pure surroundings. Long-forgotten toys constructed from plastic supplies, together with potential Lego items, have even turned up at a former nuclear missile base in Poland, the place the households of Soviet officers as soon as lived in secrecy.

And don’t overlook all of the Lego within the ocean. Every month or so, Tracey Williams, an writer and founding father of the Lego Lost at Sea project, catches up with native fishermen in Cornwall, England, who save bits of Lego that have gotten trapped of their nets. In 2020, she co-authored a study that steered dinky little items of ABS Lego might stay within the sea, producing microplastic particles, for between 100 and 1,300 years.

Some of the elements collected by Williams are as a lot as 50 years outdated. However, most originate from a misplaced delivery container that was full of almost 5 million Lego items. A rogue wave hit the vessel Tokio Express in 1997, inflicting cargo to tip into the water.

“You can only really tell that they’ve been lying at the bottom of the sea for 26 years by the marine life growing on them,” she says. “They do survive remarkably well.”

The weathering of recovered items varies, however, remarkably, some are in adequate situation for use once more, regardless of their prolonged sojourn beneath the waves or caught in sand dunes. And that, the sheer sturdiness of ABS, may present Lego with a solution, or a part of a solution, to its issues.

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