Lego, the Danish toy brick manufacturer, will invest Dkr1bn (£96m) and take on more than 100 new staff as it looks for sustainable materials to replace ABS used in its bricks by 2030.
The company will create the Lego Sustainable Materials Centre at its headquarters in Billund. The effort will include current Lego employees, but the company also expects to recruit more than 100 materials specialists during the coming years.
Lego said the project was “dedicated to research, development and implementation of new, sustainable, raw materials” to make the bricks and other toy products, and packaging materials.
In a statement, Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, Lego’s chief executive and president, said: “This is a major step for the Lego Group on our way towards achieving our 2030 ambition on sustainable materials.
“We have already taken important steps to reduce our carbon footprint and leave a positive impact on the planet by reducing the packaging size, by introducing [Forest Stewardship Council] certified packaging and through our investment in an offshore wind farm. Now we are accelerating our focus on materials.”
The company will establish its sustainable materials centre during 2015 and 2016 and the project will include satellite functions located at Lego operations around the world.
Lego officials first said they wanted to find alternative materials in 2012. Plastics News reported Allan Rasmussen, senior project manager at Lego, in 2014 saying the company had tested some bricks using an impact-modified polylactic acid, a bioresin.
But there is a major technological challenge, since the bricks have to work with the billions of Lego bricks already being used worldwide.
Lego has been using ABS since the 1960s to make its iconic, interlocking bricks. Last year, the company made more than 60 million individual elements.
The colours have to match and importantly, they have to remain clicked firmly together until pulled apart by the child – or the legions of adult Lego enthusiasts.
It is also a huge plastics industry story: Lego operates more than 5,000 moulds on more than 1,000 injection moulding machines in Denmark, Mexico and Hungary. The firm is also building a plant in China that is expected to begin full production in two years’ time.
Lego owner Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen said the company understood important role of making toys that promote creativity.
“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,” Kristiansen said in a statement.
He called the investment “a testament to our continued ambition to leave a positive impact on the planet, which future generations will inherit”.