If you remember the last time you bought a lego set you might remember that inside the box they come in a small numbered plastic bag. Every year Lego packs hundreds of millions of those bags inside their cardboard boxes, but for those of us who dislike single-use plastic, you’ll like a change Lego is working on making. The toy company is starting to phase out single-use plastic, with the goal of making its packaging sustainable by 2025—and those little plastic bags are the target. Lego is working on packing their little plastic blocks Forest Stewardship Council-certified paper instead.
“We want to ensure recycling our bags is as easy as possible for builders,” says Tim Brooks, vice president of environmental responsibility at the Lego Group. “Plastic recycling facilities are not very common and differ from country to country, which is why we chose to make the bags out of recyclable paper.”
Lego has been working hard to find the alternate to the small numbered plastic bags with a package that would be sustainable but also strong enough to hold Lego bricks, while being a package that kids liked to use – and the discovery and opening of the Lego bricks are considered to be part of the overall experience.
“We tested about 15 different prototypes with hundreds of children and parents but explored many more, including those made from recycled plastic and even paper made from stone,” Brooks says. “The prototypes varied in shape, material, and graphic design. As we start trialing the paper bags in Lego boxes in 2021, people will see both white and brown paper bags as we learn more about which is the best possible material from a functional perspective, and which design provides the best play experience for children.”
“The single-use plastic bags we have previously used to package loose bricks in Lego boxes are clear so builders could see what bricks were inside,” Brooks says. “With the paper bags, children don’t have that preview, and in testing, we found they enjoyed the suspense of opening the paper bag.”
The new bags will gradually roll out over the next five years as the company continues to test the new bag design.
Moving to paper avoids the waste of single-use plastic but also has another unexpected benefit: It’s more fun to unwrap the lego block. “The single-use plastic bags we have previously used to package loose bricks in Lego boxes are clear so builders could see what bricks were inside,” Brooks says. “With the paper bags, children don’t have that preview, and in testing, we found they enjoyed the suspense of opening the paper bag.”
The company says it is also working on new materials for its Lego bricks, hoping to do away eventually with its oil-based plastic blocks.