Danish toy moulder Lego A/S has a new 1.77 million-square-foot injection moulding plant in China that, when it's operating at full capacity, will make 72 billion ABS bricks annually.
But the company is keeping a focus on sustainability. The most recent sign: Lego is in the process of installing 20,000 solar panels on the factory roof. The company expects the panels to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 8.81 million pounds per year.
Tim Brooks, vice president for environmental sustainability, and President and CEO Jørgen Vig Knudstorp traveled to Jiaxing for a 25 November inauguration event. The factory actually started production about a year ago.
Some 1,200 people are employed at the factory, which produces between 70% to 80% of all Lego products sold in Asia. Billund, Denmark-based Lego also owns and operates factories in Denmark, Hungary, Mexico and the Czech Republic.
Brooks said the Jiaxing plant is Lego's most sustainable.
Lego's sustainability drive has achieved some measurable results. Packaging waste has been reduced, and energy efficiency has been increased so that the amount of energy used to make each Lego brick has been reduced by 16%. Lego still hopes to achieve another 2.5% reduction.
The Jiaxing factory also uses 100% LED lighting and highly efficient moulding machines. Brooks said the sustainability drive extends into the local community. Lego has pledged to reduce carbon dioxide emission by 8 million pounds in surrounding Jiaxing area.
One of the two moulding workshops visited by PRW's sister publication Plastics News featured 384 moulding machines in 404,723 square feet of space. Lego representatives said the company plans to expand to 1,536 machines in eight workshops to handle the hundreds of different moulds.
Brooks said the company currently buys about 76,000 tonnes of plastic a year, but Lego's search for a replacement material for ABS continues. He emphasized that is one component of a larger sustainability effort. The company is investing $100m (£78m) on finding more sustainable materials.
“In the long term we want to be zero waste,” he said in an interview at the Jiaxing plant.
The opening of the Jiaxing factory is part of a strategic entry into China by Lego, said Amon Wang, vice president of marketing for Lego Toy (Shanghai). The factory will make it easier for Lego to supply the Asian market. Lego reported double-digit growth in the Europe and Asia in the first half of 2016.
She added that the company faces a challenge in China unlike other markets: there is no parent generation of adults who fondly remember their childhood playing with Legos.
“We'd like to motivate the parents to play [with] the bricks together with their kids. We're trying to nurture such habits,” she said. “We're trying to get them to play together and have fun.”
True to the vision, Lego even produced a Lego version of the factory to commemorate the Jiaxing factory opening.