In a blow to the plastic recycling industry, Lego A/S has abandoned its plans to switch to recycled PET for its bricks, the Financial Times reported Sept. 24.
In 2021, the world's largest toymaker announced it was testing a prototype brick made with recycled PET, building on a 2015 pledge to invest on more sustainable replacements for ABS, which it uses in about 80 percent of its bricks.
Lego is now backtracking because using the material would have required significant changes to its manufacturing equipment and therefore would have led to higher carbon emissions over the product's lifetime.
"In order to scale production [of recycled PET], the level of disruption to the manufacturing environment was such that we needed to change everything in our factories," Tim Brooks, Lego's head of sustainability, told the Financial Times. "After all that, the carbon footprint would have been higher. It was disappointing."
One of the key concerns with recycled PET was that it was softer than ABS and needed extra additives to give it similar durability and safety. Improving the qualities of of the material reportedly required "large amounts of energy to process and dry it," according to the Financial Times report.
Billund, Denmark-based Lego now plans to make ABS more sustainable by gradually incorporating more bio-based and recycled material. The company also wants to encourage consumers to reuse their Legos, with a return program in the plans for the next two to three years.
The announcement comes amid continuous increases in recycled PET resin prices in the past months, which would have further impacted the economics of Lego's planned change, in addition to the reported concerns about carbon emissions.