Lego really are the ultimate toy. Creative, simple, enduring, almost an education in themselves.
It’s fair to say we love lego. Lego is one of the few toys that I always knew was going to be used and used again. That’s why we have such an awful lot of it. Faced with acres of lego in a teenage boys bedroom and the knowledge that its eventual eviction lies somewhere in the visible future, a number of questions spring to mind:
Is this stuff recyclable, what’s it made of, can I send it back and make more lego out of it, where does Lego Inc see the future…
The answers are yes it’s technically recyclable, but please don’t sent it back – donate it instead and that thankfully, Lego seems to be working hard to find answers to keep their product alive in the future of play.
Lego is made out of ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene), a thermoplastic polymer comprised of three monomers which together provide durability, strength and shine. This upside of this tough construction is of course years of use and potential for being handed on from generation to generation. The down side is cold hard plastic. And I don’t mean just when it’s stepped on.
Legos raw materials are derived from oil, that fossil fuel from which we as a planet are trying desperately hard to wean our dependency. The good news is so are Lego. Following a 2012 announcement of its ambition to find and implement sustainable alternatives to the existing raw materials, in 2015 Lego set up its Sustainable Materials Centre, dedicated to finding a replacement resin but facing obvious challenges set by the need to meet the high standard set by existing lego bricks. Who hasn’t had their experience with knock off brands that don’t stick together, don’t always fit, crack and just aren’t lego.
In the words of Lego Group owner and grandson of the Lego founder, Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen:
Our mission is to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow. We believe that our main contribution to this is through the creative play experiences we provide to children. The investment announced is a testament to our continued ambition to leave a positive impact on the planet, which future generations will inherit. It is certainly in line with the mission of the LEGO Group and in line with the motto of my grandfather and founder of the LEGO Group, Ole Kirk Kristiansen: Only the best is good enough”.
Well fingers crossed that works out, but what do we do in the meantime? While Lego currently achieve 90% recycling rates at their facilities, including remoulding of bricks (mainly to become black), they unfortunately don’t accept OUR lego bricks back for recycling because of concerns from Lego about contamination.
Not to be a killjoy, but buying less is the obvious solution. However anyone who has raised kids (and boys in particular) will know how hard it is to keep saying no and lego is a toy that fills a ‘yes’ slot for the value it adds, when so many other toys just seem to have no value at all from a parents viewpoint.
The Lego in our home has withstood the current cull, and will continue to provide value for at least a few years more. Buy we have to fact the fact that we don’t need more, no matter how many more London Streets, Star Wars extravaganzas or Harry Potterlike scenes are dreamed up to retail. And when or if we are done with them, these are the exit options:
Spent bricks: If the bricks are actually broken or worn out, they can be recycled at some centres as “other plastic”. Or they could be shredded and re-used in a DIY 3-D shredder and printer pairing, as ABS is the material used in these printers.
Still good bricks: Passing them on is the obvious answer. If there are no obvious available homes, seek out a charity scheme. Lego are the latest currency for the Jack and Jill foundation, a charity which provides respite to families of seriously sick children here in Ireland. Lego can be donated or sold at Jack and Jill charity shops, dropped off at any DPD depot nationwide or deposited at selected Topaz service stations (Clonshaugh, Kilmacanogue, Kill, Newcastle and Douglas) from where they are collected and sold at €10 per kilo. Money raised goes towards respite care, which costs €16 and hour, so it’s directly visible exactly what each kg of Lego donated is providing.
Read more about this initiative, of which I’m sure there must be similar on a global scale, and if not it needs to catch on!