Lego plans to scrap plastic bags and make more ‘bio bricks’

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The Lego Group is planning to invest as much as $400 million across three years in order to “accelerate sustainability and social responsibility initiatives.”

The company’s plans, announced Tuesday, are wide-ranging and cover a number of areas. Among other things, the toy-making giant said it would look to phase out single-use plastic bags in its products by 2025, with a trial of recyclable paper bags taking place next year.

In addition, the cash will be used to develop more sustainable bricks and packaging, with the family-owned firm looking to increase its use of so-called “bio bricks” made from materials like sugar cane. Research into the development of sustainable plastics made from renewable and recycled sources will also continue.

When it comes to manufacturing operations — a process that can be energy intensive — the business said these would be carbon neutral by the year 2022. This goal will be aided by measures such as the installation of solar panels at all factories as well as renewable energy procurement deals. Attempts will also be made to cut water usage by 10% by 2022, compared to 2019.

The company will also set up programs encouraging people to donate their pre-used bricks so that they can be re-used by “children in need of play.” To this end, the Lego Replay scheme — which launched in the U.S. last year and provided bricks to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston and Teach for America, which used them in after-school programs and classrooms respectively — will be introduced to two more countries before the end of 2022.

In 2018, the Lego Group’s greenhouse gas emissions — encompassing its own operations and supply chain — came to 1.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents.

Breaking that figure down, the firm says that its own operations accounted for 12% of total emissions. Emissions from the Lego Group’s own operations rose by 6% in 2018 compared to 2017, although the business says its carbon efficiency actually improved in this period.

While it may be attempting to reduce its environmental impact, the Lego Group’s current reliance on plastic to produce its toys — at the moment, bio-bricks represent 2% of the firm’s “element portfolio” — comes at a time when the issue of plastic pollution has become a huge talking point.

In the U.K., for example, TV shows such as “Blue Planet II” have raised awareness of the issue. Presented by David Attenborough, the show highlighted the shocking impact plastic has on wildlife and the natural world.

In recent years, a number of multinational firms have made pledges connected to plastic use. In October 2019 consumer goods powerhouse Unilever said it would halve its use of virgin plastic by the year 2025.

The business, whose brands include Dove, Ben & Jerry’s and Lipton, said it would achieve this by cutting its “absolute use of plastic packaging” by over 100,000 metric tons and “accelerating its use of recycled plastic.” Virgin plastics are produced using raw materials, rather than recycled ones.

Attempts to reduce plastic use in the food and drink sector are also taking place, with many restaurants now offering consumers paper straws instead of plastic ones. Efforts to develop more sustainable forms of packaging are also driving innovation.

Back in February, for example, online food delivery business Just Eat announced it had, together with sustainable packaging firm Notpla, developed a “fully recyclable” takeout box lined with seaweed.

In an announcement at the time, Just Eat said the container was able to decompose in four weeks if placed in a home compost. The seaweed-lined cardboard boxes were produced from tree and grass pulp, according to the company.

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