Lego follows the green brick road to combat plastic waste

Lego toys are displayed at the Lego World exhibition at Bella Center in Copenhagen on Feb 15, 2017.
Lego toys are displayed at the Lego World exhibition at Bella Center in Copenhagen on Feb 15, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - Danish toymaker Lego will start making several of its products from plant-based plastic this year in a bid to tackle waste and environmental damage.

The family-owned maker of colourful plastic bricks said botanical pieces such as leaves and trees would now be made from polyethylene, a type of plastic derived from sugar cane, to replace materials sourced from fossil fuels.

The announcement this week is part of Lego's commitment to reach zero waste in operations and use sustainable materials in its core products and packaging by 2030, the company said.

Eight million tonnes of plastic - bottles, packaging and other waste - are dumped into the ocean every year, killing marine life and entering the human food chain, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has said.

Tim Brooks, vice president of environmental responsibility at the Lego Group, said the change was a "great first step in our ambitious commitment of making all LEGO bricks using sustainable materials".

"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," he said in a statement.

Lego said the sustainably-sourced items would account for only 1-2 per cent of the total amount of plastic pieces it produces, adding that it has joined a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) programme to ensure the raw material is sustainable.

"The LEGO Group's decision to pursue sustainably sourced bio-based plastics represents an incredible opportunity to reduce dependence on finite resources," said Alix Grabowski, a senior programme officer at WWF, in a statement.

Jessica Ferrow, a sustainability consultant, said on Twitter it was "cool that @LEGO-Group will release their first plant-based pieces this year! Would be even cooler if it was their whole range rather than just a few select pieces".

Brands including Coca-Cola Co, Nike Inc and Procter & Gamble Co have previously taken steps to accelerate the use of sustainably-sourced plastic made from plant materials.