Kimberly Offenberg is a licensing, marketing, brand management, and product development consultant. Earlier this year she launched Buying My Way to Green, an online product review site focusing on innovative sustainable consumer goods. Prior to that, Kimberly was a Director of Licensing for Toys & Games at DreamWorks Animation where she oversaw successful licensing programs, and lead development on a wide range of innovative products and packaging across the industry. She also spent years in product development, traveling to Asia to work directly with various toy factories.
Kimberly has a passion for innovative products, and combining her knowledge of manufacturing, licensing and development to help people and companies bring products to the marketplace.
Lego announced plans to introduce an alternative plastic for their bricks back in 2012. Fast forward to August 2018 and they have just released their first edition, "Plants from Plants." This release was a GWP of elements including bushes, leaves and trees. The new plastic is polyethylene, made from ethanol produced from sugarcane. Despite critics arguing that this constitutes only a small portion of their business, this is just the beginning. Tim Brooks, VP of Environmental Responsibility at Lego stated, "We expect that in the future, some of our different elements will be plant-based, some will be made from recycled material, and some will be both."
They are making advancements not only in bioplastics plastics, but they have investments in alternative energy sources, a new sustainability center employing over 100 people, environmental certifications across their supply chain, and partnerships with expert organizations to continue exploring new materials. Lego is building the infrastructure to support their ambitious goal to use sustainable materials in all core products and packaging by 2030.
Environmental sustainability is not new to the toy industry. Several companies have been selling products using recycled and ethically sourced materials for years, with dedicated teams even at the large companies focused on reducing their environmental footprint. However, this is the first time one of the top-ranking toy companies put their reputation on the line for the sake of protecting our planet.
Now if you're in the Lego game like we are in our house, you might be worried about the quality of these new elements. Have no fear. Lego has very strict quality standards, as any of us know who are familiar with the construction category. In fact, on their website when describing the new elements they've stated "while they are based on sugar-cane material, they are technically identical to those produced using conventional plastic."
It is this "technically identical" nature that brings up some concerns over the new material. Greenpeace warns that bioplastics can still be harmful. Once they break down, bioplastics, like regular plastics, turn into microplastics which may negatively affect our water supply and marine life.
With success comes further concern. Sugarcane is sustainable but increased demand could drive prices up, which might have long-term negative impacts on surrounding ecosystems, similar to what has happened in the palm oil business. Additionally, if a farmer can get more money by farming sugarcane than other crops used to feed the local community or if this sugarcane goes towards plastic manufacturers rather than the local community, it could disrupt the food supply chain.
Despite these concerns, the use of bioplastics is on the rise and Lego is at the forefront of the trend. A trend that is being driven by new technology and rising consumer demand for greater transparency and social responsibility. Lego is a legacy product, passed down through the generations. The quality is enduring and the price points ensure they are valued and cherished. That Lego is committed to protecting the planet for our future generations is raising the bar for the rest of the toy industry.