Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 31st Aug 2018 23:30 UTC
In the News

At the heart of this town lies a building that is a veritable temple to the area’s most famous creation, the humble Lego brick. It is filled with complex creations, from a 50-foot tree to a collection of multicolored dinosaurs, all of them built with a product that has barely changed in more than 50 years.

A short walk away in its research lab, though, Lego is trying to refashion the product it is best known for: It wants to eliminate its dependence on petroleum-based plastics, and build its toys entirely from plant-based or recycled materials by 2030.

That's one heck of a materials science challenge.

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Comment by sj87
by sj87 on Sat 1st Sep 2018 08:40 UTC
sj87
Member since:
2007-12-16

It's going to be a true challenge given that the fake lego bricks are only now starting to catch up with the quality of the originals. It isn't so simple so just mold a piece of plastic.

Reply Score: 3

Holistic view required
by Iapx432 on Sat 1st Sep 2018 16:03 UTC
Iapx432
Member since:
2017-09-30

Only 4% of oil is used to make plastics. Figure may be higher if you include natural gas. However the point is that Lego needs to take a holistic view.

It is very easy for a displacement of feed-stock to cause more than a corresponding increase in energy use or habitat destruction.

The article leads with statements on carbon emissions and then pivots to replacing the plastic. Hints of green-washing. I am certain Lego corporate is well intended, but needs to beware of of unintended consequences.

A well researched paper could address this concern easily and they should link to that in any PR. Life is easier if news self verifies. We cant just believe the source anymore.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Holistic view required
by Moochman on Sun 2nd Sep 2018 12:49 UTC in reply to "Holistic view required"
Moochman Member since:
2005-07-06

It's not just about where the materials come from, but also what happens after the stuff get thrown out... Biodegradable plastic solves a crucial problem that is only tangentially related to oil shortage and emissions issues.

Edited 2018-09-02 12:49 UTC

Reply Score: 3

I'm not sure its a bright idea.
by gilboa on Sun 2nd Sep 2018 11:53 UTC
gilboa
Member since:
2005-07-06

... Given the fact that my kids (and myself) build fairly large constructions using both new and (40+ year) old bricks I got as a kid, I must admit I would rather have Lego keep the bricks as-is.

More-ever, after a good clean the 40 y/o bricks are nearly indistinguishable from new ones. (Minus some scratches and minor loss of brightness).
Somehow I doubt that non-plastic material will retain this amazing durability.

- Gilboa

Reply Score: 1

ilovebeer Member since:
2011-08-08

People had the same worries about using composites in aircraft. It turns out that fear was all for nothing as composites have improved aircraft in nearly every way.

You should have more confidence in science.

Reply Score: 2

gilboa Member since:
2005-07-06

People had the same worries about using composites in aircraft. It turns out that fear was all for nothing as composites have improved aircraft in nearly every way.

You should have more confidence in science.


With all due respect, I'm not a red-neck hilly-billy that's afraid of "change".

1. The original Lego bricks were designed and built in a different age with **extreme** durability in mind.
2. It is very likely that the bean-counters @Lego will follow the current trend of building product with planned obsolescence (citing "environmental reasons") that will last far less than the exiting bricks (that, as I pointed earlier managed to survive ~40+ years without losing their shine)

Trusting (or not trusting) "ssscciencccceee" has exactly zero to do with the point I'm making.

- Gilboa

Edited 2018-09-02 16:53 UTC

Reply Score: 1

ilovebeer Member since:
2011-08-08

With all due respect, I'm not a red-neck hilly-billy that's afraid of "change".

I neither said nor implied anything even vaguely similar to that.

1. The original Lego bricks were designed and built in a different age with **extreme** durability in mind.

And? There's no reason to believe that expectation has changed.

2. It is very likely that the bean-counters @Lego will follow the current trend of building product with planned obsolescence (citing "environmental reasons") that will last far less than the exiting bricks (that, as I pointed earlier managed to survive ~40+ years without losing their shine)

Considering that's a completely baseless claim, sounds like bad assumption & fear to me.

Trusting (or not trusting) "ssscciencccceee" has exactly zero to do with the point I'm making.

You say that but you also say, "Somehow I doubt that non-plastic material will retain this amazing durability." So you claim science has nothing to do with it but also voice your lack-of-confidence in the science of "non-plastic material" being able to "retain this amazing durability". And I simply pointed out a similar case where that fear and lack-of-confidence turned out to be a total waste.

Don't foolishly assume that a company that prides itself on making a quality product suddenly decides to do a 180 and hides behind the guise of wanting to become more environmentally friendly. In case you didn't get the memo, being more environmentally friendly is a thing these days; It's popular. Not everything every company does is a cheap money-grab.

Oh and btw, those Legos of yours that are 40+ years old.. They contain toxic materials that are no longer allowed today due to health & safety. But go ahead and keep praising them. I suppose replacing highly accurate & durable mercury-in-glass thermometers with equally accurate & durable organic-fluid-in-glass thermometers was just a cheap money-grab too.

Reply Score: 3

gilboa Member since:
2005-07-06

Have you bothered to read my comment before posting?

I never claimed that the problem is with lack of trust in science, or with the material science experts @Lego, nor did I imply anything of the sort.

1. Lego has a vested business interest in building parts that don't last 100 years (E.g. planned obsolescence).
2. Designing ABS replacement with the same durability characteristics is far more complicated than finding a material that will only last 5-10 years.
3. More-ever, such a material will most likely be far more expensive that a material that will only last 5-10 years.
4. Highly durable materials are usually harder to dispose of and/or recycle, which more-or-less goes against of the point of switching to a "green" materials.
5. Lego can actually get a away with lowering the durability of Lego parts (as in, avoiding a P.R. nightmare), by citing "green" reasons.
6. Worst of all (from my perspective), most Lego customers couldn't care less it the parts last 3 years or 50 years. (I very much do).

So sure, the scccccieeeeentistssss @Lego can create a "green" material that will be (nearly) as durable as ABS.
However, given the reasons cited above, I really, really, really doubt that they will be asked to create such a material.

As such, back to my original point:
"Somehow I doubt that (the) non-plastic material (designed by Lego's material science experts) will retain this amazing durability."

- Gilboa

Edited 2018-09-03 12:00 UTC

Reply Score: 1

gilboa Member since:
2005-07-06

BTW, if you read between the lines, I trust "science" far more than you.
Planned obsolescence can only be achieved if you have **very** good modeling and and can predict, with high certainty when and how certain components will fail.

60 years ago the science wasn't there, so they used brute force.

Edited 2018-09-03 12:43 UTC

Reply Score: 1

ilovebeer Member since:
2011-08-08

Have you bothered to read my comment before posting?

Yes, obviously.

I never claimed that the problem is with lack of trust in science, or with the material science experts @Lego, nor did I imply anything of the sort.

You didn't make the claim but whether or not it was implied is debatable. I'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt if you say that wasn't your intent; Not everyone is a clear communicator.

1. Lego has a vested business interest in building parts that don't last 100 years (E.g. planned obsolescence).

You can say the same for any product in existence in theory but it's plain dumb to make such a blanket statement. LEGO is the most profitable toy maker in the world. They are making billions of dollars per year with their best year ever just a couple years ago under their current model - making durable toys that last decades and can be passed down from parent to child.

2. Designing ABS replacement with the same durability characteristics is far more complicated than finding a material that will only last 5-10 years.

Another nothing-comment like #1. ABS is not the `god` of plastics. There are already alternatives that match or exceed its qualities, and others currently being developed. LEGO is not starting from square 1 with decades of research ahead of them. Most of the hard work was done well before they chose to become more green.

3. More-ever, such a material will most likely be far more expensive that a material that will only last 5-10 years.

Baseless claim and in fact it's often high cost that drives the search for comparable or better alternatives.

4. Highly durable materials are usually harder to dispose of and/or recycle, which more-or-less goes against of the point of switching to a "green" materials.

What?! "Green" products are typically easier and/or cheaper to recycle and are often biodegradable, hence *why they are considered "green"*!

5. Lego can actually get a away with lowering the durability of Lego parts (as in, avoiding a P.R. nightmare), by citing "green" reasons.

LEGO can actually improve their products, making them more attractive to consumers, by making their products less toxic/more "green" while maintaining cost and the same or better level of quality, thus hitting a PR grand slam.

6. Worst of all (from my perspective), most Lego customers couldn't care less it the parts last 3 years or 50 years. (I very much do).

I have many friends with young children. I've never heard a single one of them say anything that supports your claim. I have often heard them comment on how expensive LEGO's are and the expectation that if they invest in them, their child(ren) better play with them for a long time - a direct contradiction to your claim.

So sure, the scccccieeeeentistssss @Lego can create a "green" material that will be (nearly) as durable as ABS.
However, given the reasons cited above, I really, really, really doubt that they will be asked to create such a material.

The "reasons" you listed above are nearly all baseless assumptions or the exact opposite of what reality shows us. Now, you are free to believe LEGO, the most profitable toy company in the world, wanting to make a green product is all just a ruse.. A big conspiracy to introduce "planned obsolescence" in an attempt to squeeze their customers wallets. A very risky move for such a successful company - considering the potential image & PR disaster should this plot be undercovered, a very stupid move as well.

I, on the other hand, believe something far less sinister. Due to lack of any evidence that supports your conspiracy claim, I believe the company genuinely has interest in making their products less toxic and more environmentally friendly. This would not only be in line with popular trends but be a PR home run as well. Rather than risk their success with a greed-based evil plot, they would be strengthening their business moving forward.

So, we'll agree to disagree.

Reply Score: 3

gilboa Member since:
2005-07-06

What?! "Green" products are typically easier and/or cheaper to recycle and are often biodegradable, hence *why they are considered "green"*!


Should I point the obvious?
The all point of biodegradable materials is that they disintegrate over time with little - if any - need for human intervention.

A material can either biodegradable or highly-durable, you can't have them both.

I have many friends with young children. I've never heard a single one of them say anything that supports your claim. I have often heard them comment on how expensive LEGO's are and the expectation that if they invest in them, their child(ren) better play with them for a long time - a direct contradiction to your claim.


Kids use Lego for what, 5 years? 10 years (if you have multiple kids)? So they'll use a material that lasts 5-10 years and no-one will notice.
However, I will, as again, I'm using 40+ y/o parts.

- Gilboa

Edited 2018-09-04 08:42 UTC

Reply Score: 2

ilovebeer Member since:
2011-08-08

Should I point the obvious?
The all point of biodegradable materials is that they disintegrate over time with little - if any - need for human intervention.

A material can either biodegradable or highly-durable, you can't have them both.

Wrong. There are plenty of green materials that are extremely durable. They contain components that `kick start` the biodegrading process once certain other elements are introduced, such as engineered bacteria or chemical starters that don't occur naturally. Very little human intervention required and once the process is started, nature takes over.

You should really do your homework when it comes to biodegradable and bioerodable materials.

Kids use Lego for what, 5 years? 10 years (if you have multiple kids)? So they'll use a material that lasts 5-10 years and no-one will notice.
However, I will, as again, I'm using 40+ y/o parts.

Have you ever looked up how many pounds of Lego's are donated each year? It's a lot. Have you ever looked up how many places there are that deal only with Lego donations? It's a lot. Legos tend to have a very long life whether they're passed down in families, resold as a business or to help charities such as kids with cancer, or shipped by the container load to 3rd world countries.

As I said, you're free to believe in your conspiracy theory despite there being no evidence to support it. I'll continue to believe the far more logical and sensical thing - that Lego wants to improve their product and score good PR in the process.

Reply Score: 2

emojim Member since:
2018-08-07

People had the same worries about using composites in aircraft. It turns out that fear was all for nothing as composites have improved aircraft in nearly every way.


I disagree, ilovebeer... I mean, have you tasted airline food lately? ;)

Reply Score: 1

ilovebeer Member since:
2011-08-08

Not in a while. I tend to just stick with the beef jerky & almonds I usually bring. ;)

Reply Score: 2

Comment by emojim
by emojim on Sun 2nd Sep 2018 19:15 UTC
emojim
Member since:
2018-08-07

I don't think LEGO is trying to make a less durable product. If they wanted to do that they probably would have done so before now. Also, I have read a couple of articles recently that claimed LEGO was having trouble meeting demand.

LEGO last because they are made of ABS, which is a good material for the product. It's very durable with good acid resistance, which is important for a toy that's going to be handled.

There are downsides to using ABS, though. For starters, it's pretty expensive to manufacture compared to other thermoplastics. Another factor that I think is driving this move is the ever-growing demand in other industries like electronics. Things like the keys on a keyboard, if not the whole keyboard itself, are often made out of ABS for the same reason that LEGO are.

It will be interesting to see how the new blocks hold up compared to the old ones.

Edited 2018-09-02 19:17 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE: Comment by emojim
by gilboa on Mon 3rd Sep 2018 14:58 UTC in reply to "Comment by emojim"
gilboa Member since:
2005-07-06

I hope you're right. But my gut feeling is that the market demands (for ultra durable products, w/ disregard for environmental footprint, recycling, etc) has shifted. I doubt that Lego sees hard demand in replacing ABS with a "green" material with similar durability.

http://www.osnews.com/thread?661856

Reply Score: 1