Posted: 05/10/2023

Lego abandons plans to make bricks from recycled drinks bottles

Last week, Lego announced that it was abandoning plans to produce bricks by recycling plastic drinks bottles.  The Danish toy company said that the move would have generated higher carbon emissions, while ignoring the part where PET is an oil-based plastic.


The plan, announced in 2021, involved the world’s largest toy maker investing in research to identify more sustainable materials in a drive to reduce their overall carbon emissions.  The brand produces billions of Lego bricks each year, traditionally from acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), which any parent will know is virtually indestructible and very painful when trodden on.


The potential transition to polyethylene terephthalate (PET) created a conundrum for Lego, with the much softer PET requiring extra additives for durability, as well as greater resources and energy used for processing and curing.  The move would have created huge disruption to the manufacturing infrastructure with changes needed across the factories to scale up PET use.  The changes would have led to increases in the total carbon footprint of Lego production, which did not align with the company’s goal of improving sustainability.


The move will no doubt be welcomed by PET recyclers who are often citing a lack of availability of food-grade rPET for bottle recycling, and Lego have announced that they will continue to invest in research to improve the sustainability of their ABS bricks by incorporating more bio-based and recycled content by tripling spending on sustainability.


RECOUP recently released a research report investigating the recyclability of hard plastic toys, which can be found on the reports page of the RECOUP website.