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Braskem to supply ethanol-derived bioplastic to LEGO Group's 'botanicals'

Brazil-headed Braskem SA, the world's largest biopolymer producer, has disclosed that it will supply the LEGO Group with its "I'm green" polyethylene, a globally certified plastic derived from sugarcane ethanol. Already in 2018, the plant-derived plastic will be used in the 'botanical' elements range, such as trees, bushes and leaves of the Danish privately held company known worldwide for its building bricks.

LEGO Group’s new sustainable ‘botanical’ elements range is being made using Braskem’s sugarcane ethanol-derived green polyethylene and will appear in LEGO boxes already in 2018 (image courtesy LEGO Group).

The new sustainable LEGO elements are made from green polyethylene (PE), which is a soft, durable and flexible plastic. While they are based on Braskem’s sugarcane ethanol-derived material, LEGO Group point out they are technically identical to those produced using conventional fossil-derived plastic and have been tested to ensure the plant-based plastic meets the company’s high standards for quality and safety.

LEGO products have always been about providing high-quality play experiences giving every child the chance to shape their own world through inventive play. Children and parents will not notice any difference in the quality or appearance of the new elements because plant-based polyethylene has the same properties as conventional polyethylene, said Tim Brooks, Vice-President, Environmental Responsibility at the LEGO Group.

According to Braskem, its Green PE is present in more than 150 brands in Europe, United States, Asia, Africa and South America. The resin has high versatility, being used from food packaging to personal care products, passing through more durable goods such as chairs and vases. The Green PE is 100 percent recyclable and contributes to the reduction of greenhouse gases (GHG).

The partnership reinforces Braskem’s successful strategy to focus on sustainable and innovative products. Green Plastic is part of Braskem’s renewable products portfolio, which has a robust growth and development strategy for the coming years, said Gustavo Sergi, Renewable Chemicals Director at Braskem.

The production process begins with dehydrating ethanol, which is obtained from sugarcane, to transform it into green ethylene, which then goes to the polymerization units, where it is transformed into polyethylene. The sugarcane-derived plastic then goes to third-generation companies, the so-called converters, which transform it into various products.

Small but significant first step

According to LEGO Group, production has already started on a range of sustainable LEGO elements made from the plant-derived bioplastic based plastic. The new sustainable LEGO ‘botanical’ elements will come in varieties including leaves, bushes and trees.

At the LEGO Group, we want to make a positive impact on the world around us and are working hard to make great play products for children using sustainable materials. We are proud that the first LEGO elements made from sustainably sourced plastic are in production and will be in LEGO boxes this year. This is a great first step in our ambitious commitment to making all LEGO bricks using sustainable materials, said Tim Brooks, Vice President, Environmental Responsibility at the LEGO Group.

The move, which is part of the LEGO Group’s commitment to using sustainable materials in core products and packaging by 2030, is, however, a small first step – polyethylene elements represent 1-2 percent of the total amount of plastic elements produced by the company.

LEGO Group has also partnered with WWF to support and build demand for sustainably sourced plastic and has joined the Bioplastic Feedstock Alliance (BFA), an initiative of WWF, to secure fully sustainable sourcing of raw material for the bioplastics industry. Braskem’s Green PE used to make the botanical LEGO elements is certified by the Bonsucro Chain of Custody standard for responsibly sourced sugarcane.

It is essential that companies in each industry find ways to responsibly source their product materials and help ensure a future where people, nature, and the economy thrive. The LEGO Group’s decision to pursue sustainably sourced bio-based plastics represents an incredible opportunity to reduce dependence on finite resources, and their work with the Bioplastic Feedstock Alliance will allow them to connect with other companies to continue to think creatively about sustainability said Alix Grabowski, a senior program officer at WWF.

Braskem’s “I’m green” plastic has been produced since 2010 at its Triunfo Petrochemical Complex in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. With an annual production capacity of 200 000 tonnes, it is the world’s largest industrial plant making ethanol-based ethylene.

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