As part of their environmental responsibility targets, LEGO aims to find an ecologically sustainable alternative to the plastic resin (ABS) currently used for the manufacture of their toy bricks. The company has set a target to manufacture new eco-friendly bricks by 2030.
LEGO has been making toys since 1932, where the founder Ole Kirk Kristiansen began
making wooden toys. The company started manufacturing the iconic interlocking blocks in 1949 and currently, the annual manufacturing figure stands at 60 billion blocks.
Speaking at Innovation Takes Root 2014 in Orlando, Allan Rasmussen, Project Manager at LEGO said: “I need to find a material that is just as good as this one. “I need to find a material that will be just as good in 50 years, because these are passed down from generation to generation.”
Rasmussen confirmed the sustainability quest is in its early stages, and they have already tested some bricks using an impact modified poly-lactic acid which were “very, very close.” There was a problem with post-molding ‘’creep,” and the bricks do not click and stick together as they should.
The LEGO ‘’clutch power’’, meaning the ability to stay clicked together until the child wants to separate them, is key for any material replacing ABS.
Hemp may just meet the strict LEGO requirements. Hemp is a strain of cannabis with very low THC levels and used mainly for its fiber and seeds. Hemp fibers has been used for millennia and can also be turned into biodegradable plastic material.
The majority of plastics currently manufactured in the world uses petroleum cellulose which is hazardous to humans, animals and our planet. Cellulose made from organic compounds are biodegradable and hemp is an ideal base material with a high cellulose content (between 70-80%), according to Hemp Plastics.
Australian company Zeoform has been working on the development of biodegradable hemp technologies for several years already. The company has patented a very versatile plastic made entirely from hemp and suitable for virtually any product you can think of. The material can be injected or blow molded into bottles, straws, furniture, building materials, to name a just few. Perhaps even toy building bricks?
There is no limit to the uses for hemp plastics and resins and bio-composites and as the demand grows, so will the need to grow hemp for local manufacture.
Apart from all the positive environmental qualities already mentioned, growing hemp produces oxygen, it’s a fast grower, can be harvested in four months, is resistant to most pests and requires less processing. Growing hemp locally for manufacture will also reduce the carbon footprint of transport.