After 60 years of making their iconic blocks from oil-based plastics, LEGO plans to switch to hemp-derived plastics. This decision is exciting news for anyone who cares about the environment or loves hemp. LEGO will phase out oil-based blocks in favor of hemp alternatives by 2030.
The Problem with Plastic
With the threat of climate change rising every day, it’s about time companies take steps to reduce their carbon footprint. Sustainability has always been a major problem for LEGO. The company uses more than 6,000 tons of plastic to make 60 billion blocks per year. This oil-based plastic makes the blocks sturdy, stackable, incredibly painful to step on, and also practically impossible to recycle or dispose. That’s why LEGO has spent $155 million and devoted a team of over 100 employees to developing these replacement hemp bricks.
The world’s dependency on non-renewable, oil-based plastic is having a massive impact on the global environment, specifically our oceans. A study from the UK called ‘Foresight Future of the Sea’ found that as much as 70% of the litter found in the ocean is made from non-biodegradable plastics. For added perspective, National Geographic reports that an estimated 8 million tons of plastic are dumped into the ocean each year. Sadly, this amount is expected to increase nearly tenfold unless we make serious changes.
This massive build-up of plastic is having a huge impact on ocean wildlife as well. Recently, a sperm whale washed up on the coast of Spain with a horrific 64 pounds of plastic in its stomach. Sadly, this instance of plastic waste isn’t going away anytime soon, as experts estimate it would take 450 to 1,000 years to biodegrade.
Can Hemp Save the World?
Tragic stories of environmental destruction have caused companies like LEGO to turn to hemp-based plastics. Instead of using the petroleum cellulose found in standard plastics, LEGO is opting to use cellulose found organically in plants. Hemp has an impressively high cellulose content, between 70-80%, making it the perfect base for sustainable plastics.
Companies all over the world have been working to advance hemp-based plastics over the past few years. Hemp technology now allows the material to be molded into products like straws, buttons, furniture, and almost any other plastic object imaginable.
Hemp Plastic Makes Economic Sense for LEGO
In today’s climate, with more consumers paying attention to sustainability, going green is a great PR move. Many individuals, particularly Millennials, consider environmental impact when making purchasing decisions. Switching from oil-based plastic to hemp is sure to excite a wide range of consumers who are interested in the sustainable plant.
Plus, switching to hemp-based plastics won’t lower the quality of LEGO products. Allan Rasmussen, Project Manager at LEGO, made sure the new material could form bricks indistinguishable from the traditional plastic ones.
“I need to find a material as good as [oil-based plastic],” Rasmussen explained, “I need to find a material that will be just as good in 50 years, because these are passed down from generation to generation.”
The Future of Hemp LEGOs
It’s a big deal that a recognizable household brand like LEGO decided to make this exciting, sustainable transition. Other plastic-based brands will undoubtedly follow suit.
Since hemp was federally legalized with the passage of the Farm Bill, the market has skyrocketed. The hemp industry is estimated to be worth a whopping $13 billion by 2026. The American public has truly begun embracing cannabis products in every way, shape, and form. Hopefully LEGO’s switch to greener building blocks will make an impact on a more sustainable future.