The LEGO Group today unveiled a prototype LEGO brick made from recycled PET bottles, the latest step in the company’s quest to make its products from sustainable materials.
Over the past three years, materials scientists and engineers tested over 250 variations of PET materials and hundreds of other plastic formulations. The result is a prototype that meets several of their quality, safety, and play requirements – including clutch power.
It will, however, be some time before bricks made from a recycled material appear in LEGO product boxes. The team hopes to continue testing and developing the PET formulation and then assess whether to move to the pilot production phase. This next phase of testing is expected to take at least a year.
Vice president of environmental responsibility at the LEGO Group, Tim Brooks, says: “We know kids care about the environment and want us to make our products more sustainable. Even though it will be a while before they will be able to play with bricks made from recycled plastic, we want to let kids know we’re working on it and bring them along on the journey with us.
“Experimentation and failing is an important part of learning and innovation. Just as kids build, unbuild and rebuild with LEGO bricks at home, we’re doing the same in our lab.”
The prototype is made from recycled PET sourced from suppliers in the United States that use US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) approved processes. On average, a one-litre plastic PET bottle provides enough raw material for ten 2 x 4 LEGO bricks.
A patent-pending material formulation reportedly increases the durability of PET to make it strong enough for LEGO bricks. The innovative process uses a bespoke compounding technology to combine the recycled PET with strengthening additives.
This recycled prototype brick is the latest development in LEGO’s sustainability journey. In 2020, the company announced its intention to start removing single-use plastic from its boxes. In 2018, it began producing elements from bio-polyethylene, made from sustainably sourced sugarcane.
Many LEGO sets contain elements made from bio-PE, which the company says is perfect for making smaller, softer pieces such as trees, branches, leaves, and accessories for minifigures. Bio-PE is not currently suitable for making harder, stronger elements such as the iconic LEGO bricks.