LEGO Searches for Sustainable Material Replacement, HEMP is the Answer

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LEGO Searches for Sustainable Material Replacement, HEMP is the Answer

In June LEGO announced an investment of USD$150 Million towards research for a more sustainable plastic replacement for its famous LEGO blocks and the packaging thereof. The Danish company produces 60 billion plastic parts per year and by 2030* plans to replace these petroleum-based plastics with a material that can help the company leave a positive impact on the world.

Currently, the plastic pieces are made from acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), a strong and durable plastic used with injection molding equipment to form the desired products. Since ABS is a thermoplastic material, the plastic can be recycled into a lower grade plastic stated simply by scraping and separating the plastics, then melting and remolding them; however, ABS is categorized as plastic Number 7 and unfortunately most US facilities do not accept this plastic. Additionally, due to its strong and durable nature, ABS does not decompose and the life cycle of turning crude oil to ABS plastic is destructive to habitats and energy intensive releasing high volumes of CO2 into our atmosphere. Considering that extracting and refining (and transportation of)LEGO products  accounts for 90% of LEGO’s carbon footprint,** the company could save HUGELY by switching to a bio-based, carbon-sequestering material.

Traditional Plastic vs Bioplastic

The pellets in the background are used in injection molding to form the natural colored bio-plastic. The clear plastics are from petroleum-based materials. Colors can still be added to both.

So LEGO, why not research hemp-based materials!? Use the long and short fibers to form composite pellets and use the seed as the resin. The injection molding equipment could still be utilized, only with different materials! Old LEGOs would biodegrade (like all bioplastics it must be within industrial composters to function) and with a material that absorbs approximately 1.7 kg CO2/kg hemp, LEGO could potentially offset its facility carbon footprint, easily making LEGO a Net Zero Energy facility while selling its wind turbine investments as carbon credits!

*http://www.lego.com/en-us/aboutus/news-room/2015/june/sustainable-materials-centre

**http://time.com/3931946/lego-sustainable-materials/

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