The Eco Story of Lego, Now Washing Up On U.K. Beaches

Posted by on August 19, 2014 in Green

220px-LEGO_Minifigure_skating_through_townMillions of Lego pieces from a container that fell into the sea off Cornwall in 1997 are washing up on Cornish beaches in the U.K. Along the beach in Perranporth, Cornwall you can spot a white daisy, which will be one of 353,264 plastic daisies that went overboard when the container ship Tokio Express was hit by a large wave. The captain described it as a “once in a 100-year phenomenon.” As a result, 62 containers were lost about 20 miles off Land’s End. One of them was filled with nearly 4.8 millions pieces of Lego, bound for New York.

Ironically, many of the shipwrecked Lego items were nautical-themed, so locals and tourists are finding miniature cutlasses, spear guns, scuba gear and flippers, as well as dragons and the daisies. However, there is also a gloomy side to this story as the pieces are deadly to ocean life and birds.

There are more than 90 Lego bricks for every person on the planet, according to Lego’s senior director of environmental sustainability Tim Brooks, which makes this toy manufacturer a highly visible user of plastic! Lego is focused on its environmental efforts, believing it can add value in its eco-design by embedding greener design principles into the manufacturing process and linking them to wider zero waste ambitions.

So, as new products are developed, this toy company will be looking to apply eco-design principles more widely across the business. This could have implications for another focus area – the search for more sustainable materials. The raw materials Lego uses for its bricks represent 30 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions. It is looking to implement greener alternatives by 2030. Each time a new element is designed it gets an environmental score.

Overall, the toy industry is highly regulated; safety and quality issues are paramount. Therefore, the prospect of Lego using recycled material in its products is not an option due to contamination issues dampening any potential for remanufacture. The rise of Lego rental and re-use sites has driven the business to ponder other options such as take-back schemes. The durability of the product means it rarely gets disposed of or discarded. The company has trialled the return of Lego pieces, however, most consumers are proud of their Lego collection and do not want to give them back! Lego’s ultimate aim is to build eco-design so effectively into the products that designers don’t even realise they are making conscious environmental choices during the creative process.

Photo CreditWikipedia

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