Since 1963, Lego toys off all shapes and sizes have been moulded from ABS plastic, a material with a long list of pros; but thanks to the reliance on petroleum to make ABS, sustainability isn’t one of them. That’s why Lego is spending hundreds of millions of dollars finding an alternative.
The company will spend $150 million on research and development of sustainable alternatives to the ABS plastic it currently uses in its toys. The aim is to have a viable alternative in production by 2030. That’s going to be harder than it sounds, thanks to the scale of Lego’s usage of ABS: 77,000 metric tonnes of raw material used last year to produce 60 billion individual Lego elements. The move follow’s Lego’s termination of a long-standing (and hugely lucrative) Shell marketing contract last year.
Of course, finding a viable alternative to oil for making plastics would be huge, and not just for the bare-foot-killing-children’s-toy industry. Scientists have been searching for alternatives for years; but as those teams have been lacking the motivational powers of screaming 5-year-olds being denied Lego sets.