Lego lying around? Toymaker brings brick recycling initiative to Canada
An undated photo from files showing pieces of Lego. (Thomas Borberg/Polfoto via AP, File) DENMARK OUT
TORONTO -- In an effort to improve sustainability and keep Lego blocks out of the trash, Lego is expanding its Lego Replay initiative to Canada, allowing kids to donate their old Lego blocks to Canadian children’s non-profits.
The company announced Monday it would expand the program into Canada after a successful year-long pilot run in the U.S., which saw more 100 tons (90,000 kg) of bricks donated for reuse.
Through the Lego Replay Program, Canadians can ship their used Lego bricks, sets or elements for free. Once received, each brick will be sorted, inspected and cleaned, and shipped out to kids and classrooms in need.
The company says it has seen a “dramatic increase” in donations to the Lego Replay program since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re sure that’s a combined mix of people wanting to help […] but also people being home and taking time to clean up some of those bins that they may have never gotten to before,” Lego spokesperson Lauren O’Hara told CTVNews.ca.
“One of the silver linings of this pandemic is that we’ve been able to move so much more quickly to get these bricks into people’s hands. We’ve had organizations moving at much more rapid paces to ensure their children have the right materials for virtual learning.”
In March, the company shifted from larger classroom-sized donation boxes, to smaller individual-sized boxes to promote safer learning in classrooms.
“We know that a problem a lot of teachers are having is that their learning and play materials cannot be used in the classroom right now because they don’t have enough to go around,” O’Hara said, noting that the company will put an added focus on providing donation boxes to Indigenous communities.
“So, we’re hoping to donate these exactly like we’re doing in the U.S. to support learning and after-school programs without putting any children at risk.”
Lego, like other big brands, is looking to please consumers worried about plastic's impact on the environment. The company is working to find other materials for its colourful bricks, but finding one as durable as plastic has been a challenge.
“For us, every single element we are making has to be and perform exactly like the element that we’re trying to replace,” O’Hara explained.
The company recently invested US$400 million to expand and reinvest into the product development team to accelerate the development of plastic-free Lego.
“One of the things we have been able to achieve is taking out all of the single use plastics in our products. Starting this year, we will be moving forward with paper pre-packed bags. These are the bags found inside of our Lego sets that house each one of our bricks,” O’Hara said.
“For us, the more immediate need was to replace these single use plastics which sometimes get recycled, but often times just get thrown away.”
Canadians are able to donate “any and all” Lego bricks, including Duplo, small bricks and big bricks. They don’t need to be full sets or organized by type or shape. Instructions for shipping the donations can be found on Lego’s website.