LEGO Transitions to Plant-Based Bricks & Recycled Plastic

If no birthday wish list in your home is complete without a new LEGO set, you’ll enjoy this happy green news. LEGO is transitioning their bricks to plant-based plastic… and they have more green initiatives in the works.

LEGO Transitions to Sustainable, Plant-Based Bricks

These new sustainable LEGO botanical elements (leaves, bushes, and trees for now) are made from plant-based plastic sourced from sugarcane.

“At the LEGO Group we want to make a positive impact on the world around us, and are working hard to make great play products for children using sustainable materials,” said Tim Brooks, vice president of environmental responsibility at the LEGO Group.

Will LEGO stop using plastic?

A new recycled prototype, which uses PET plastic from discarded bottles, was announced in June 2021. The recycled prototype brick is the latest development in making the LEGO Group’s products more sustainable. In 2020, the company announced plans to remove single-use plastic from its boxes. In 2018, it began producing elements from bio-polyethylene (bio-PE), made from sustainably sourced sugarcane.

These changes are part of the LEGO Group’s commitment to use sustainable materials in their core products and packaging by 2030.

How is LEGO doing on their sustainability goals?

“This ambition requires investment and in 2023, we increased spending on environmental initiatives by 60% compared to 2022,” they reported in their March 2024 update. By 2025 we plan to have doubled our annual spend compared to 2023.”

The company is aware there there isn’t one single solution for the challenge of “greening” so many tiny pieces. They said they remain curious, creative, and committed in finding these solutions.

“One of the ways we aim to do this is by increasing our use of material that has been certified according to mass balance principles. In simple terms, this is resin made from a mix of certified renewable or recycled raw materials, such as used cooking or plant oils, and virgin fossil. We can use this in our existing manufacturing process to make our products without compromising on quality or safety.”

Personally, I’m still an advocate of buying gently used LEGOs (retired sets make awesome gifts), but their greener measures help ease green guilt about the excess plastic in our environment when your child (or their friend) really wants a new set. And you’ll have fewer worries when it comes to the safety of the plastic toys your child handles.

“Children and parents will not notice any difference in the quality or appearance of the new elements, because plant-based polyethylene has the same properties as conventional polyethylene,” explained Tim Brooks, vice president of environmental responsibility at the LEGO Group.

LEGO has also partnered with WWF to support and build demand for sustainably sourced plastic, and has joined the Bioplastic Feedstock Alliance (BFA), an initiative of WWF, to secure fully sustainable sourcing of raw material for the bioplastics industry. The plant based plastic used to make the botanical LEGO elements is third party certified following global standards for responsibly sourced sugarcane.

“It is essential that companies in each industry find ways to responsibly source their product materials and help ensure a future where people, nature, and the economy thrive,” said Alix Grabowski, a senior program officer at WWF, in the press release.

About LEGO plant-based elements

  • Polyethylene elements are 1-2% of the total amount of plastic elements produced by the LEGO Group; The sustainable product range covers LEGO botanical elements such as leaves, bushes and trees made entirely from plant-based plastic.
  • Plant-based polyethylene used in LEGO elements is made from ethanol produced from sugarcane.
    The sugarcane used is sourced sustainably in accordance with guidance from the Bioplastic Feedstock Alliance (BFA) and is certified following global standards for responsibly sourced sugarcane.
  • All suppliers must comply with the LEGO Group’s Code of Conduct, which specifies strict requirements for ethical, environmental and health & safety standards based on leading global guidelines.
  • The LEGO Group works closely with its suppliers to ensure life-cycle assessments are conducted, which map the environmental impacts from the production of the bio-based material.

“Millennial parents are more aware than previous generations of their impact on the environment,” explains Jackie Breyer, editorial director of The Toy Book and The Toy Insider. “They feel the need to teach by example that they can make the world a better place.

Is LEGO getting rid of plastic bags?

Paper-based bags within the box rolled out in 2022, but they stopped in the U.S. A few of the sets we bought and gifted about a year and a half ago had the new paper-based bags. But I haven’t seen them in late 2023 or early 2024.

Here’s what LEGO had to say about them:

We are in the process of switching from single-use plastic to paper-based bags. While our boxes currently still feature bags made from polypropylene (PP) or low-density polyethylene (LDPE), we will gradually replace them with bags made from >95% paper with a thin plastic coating on the inside, which enables sealing of the bags and ensures that they are fit-for-purpose to hold LEGO® and LEGO DUPLO® bricks.

Our new paper-based bags are made with paper from Forest Stewardship Council™ certified forests and FSC-controlled wood. They have been verified as recyclable in the European Union, United States and Canada.

I’m curious about these paper-based bags. If you’ve seen them in the last 18 months, will you let me know in the comments? Also it’s helpful to know your country.

About LEGO’s recycled plastic bricks

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 to ensure quality. On average, a one-liter plastic PET bottle provides enough raw material for ten 2 x 4 LEGO bricks.

It will be some time before bricks made from a recycled material appear in LEGO product boxes. The team will continue testing and developing the PET formulation and then assess whether to move to the pilot production phase. This next phase of testing began in 2021 and was expected to take at least a year.

LEGO Replay Program

Through LEGO Replay you can pass along the bricks your child no longer uses. Using their Give Back Box, you can pass on your much-loved LEGO bricks to share the power of play with kids involved with Teach for America and the Boys and Girls Clubs. Visit Give Back Box for more information and to print out your free shipping label.

New USA-Based Brick Plant

And in more LEGO sustainability news, the company announced plans to invest more than $1 billion in its first United States factory. The plant will be carbon-neutral, to shorten supply chains and keep up with growing demand in one of its largest markets.

The new factory will use renewable energy produced at an onsite solar park. It will be operational in the second half of 2025 and will employ more than 1,760 people. The U.S. market is currently supplied by a factory in Mexico.

More on Safe Toys for Babies and Kids

These articles offer more advice and ideas about choosing safer toys.

Eco-Friendly Gifts for Kids
Are Plastic Toys Safe?
PVC in Toys: How to avoid the “poison plastic”
Why and How to Choose Battery Free Toys

This article was published in 2018 and updated in 2024.

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