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LEGO Sustainability Project - your help needed!

drdavewatforddrdavewatford Hertfordshire, UKAdministrator Posts: 6,003
edited August 2015 in Ambassador

Fellow Bricksetters,

As I’m sure some of you know, the LEGO group is actively involved in efforts to research and develop new sustainable alternatives to the current materials used for manufacturing LEGO elements and packaging. This is a strategic priority following the recent announcement of the Sustainable Materials Centre which you can find out more about at http://www.lego.com/da-dk/aboutus/contact/sustainability-materials-centre

As part of these efforts, the company want to better understand the perceptions and preferences of customers, for instance what are the characteristics of the LEGO product that are most important to consumers, as well to understand consumer expectations for the sustainability of LEGO elements and packaging. To this end, they’ve asked Ambassadors to gather and collate feedback from their LUGs on some specific questions which you’ll find below.

If you’re happy to help out and have a few moments then please get back to me with your thoughts on the questions below, providing examples and as much detail as possible. Feel free to post responses on this thread, or if you’d prefer then e-mail me at drdave@brickset.com. The timeline is pretty tight - I need to get back to LEGO by the 30th of August - so if you’re planning to respond then please get your answers to me by midnight on August 29th in order to give me 24 hours to collate responses.

Thanks again!

Dr D.

Questions as follows:

1. Please list what consumers can generally expect when a toy product is made of "sustainable materials". Kindly elaborate your answers and provide examples, if possible. The richer descriptions you provide, the more we know exactly what you mean! Please rank your list, indicating the most important to the least.

2. What characteristics of the LEGO experience are currently most important to consumers? For each characteristic, please describe exactly what it is about. The more explanation you provide, the better we understand your input. Again, please rank your list, indicating the most important to the least.

3. What characteristics of the LEGO experiences are relevant to consider when addressing "sustainable materials"? Rich descriptions and examples, please, and please rank your list, indicating the most important to the least.

4. Is there anything else you feel is important regarding Sustainable Materials that wasn´t covered in the questions above, that might help get a better view about the topic?


Comments

  • BooTheMightyHamsterBooTheMightyHamster Northern edge of London, just before the dragons...Member Posts: 974
    A few thoughts...

    If I buy a product that identifies itself as made of sustainable materials...

    a)    Most importantly, I’d expect no drop in quality (or in the case of Lego, possibly a return to the quality that we had a few years ago).  Creating an inferior product and expecting customers to accept it, on the grounds of its ‘green credentials’ is a non-starter.  Look, for example, at the frustration that is still expressed over low-energy lightbulbs, compared to the old style tungsten / filament bulb.  The practical lifespan of the product would need to be as good, or better, than the current product, i.e. clutch power, colours that are resistant to fade, adhesive used on stickers.

    b)    Clear documentation, either on the packaging itself, or a pointer to a website, that explains exactly what has been done in the name of sustainability.  i.e. What natural resources have been saved?  What pollutants have been removed from the manufacturing process?  What is being done to offset the resources used, i.e. planting trees to replace those used in box manufacture.

     

    What characteristics of the LEGO experience are currently most important to consumers?

    a)     The quality of the piece in hand.  Lego is a tactile medium, and it is vital that these standards are maintained.  Vibrancy of colour.  The smoothness of the pieces, the straightness of edges, and the sub-millimetre tolerances that provide clutch need to be kept, and if a greener alternative material can’t provide these, then it’s not a viable alternative.

    b)    Box quality.  Reviews often note that the very large sets, and particularly the Architecture line have ‘quality’ boxes.  Thinner cardboard leads to dents and scratches.  Slapdash application of adhesive means that it’s virtually impossible to open glued boxes without causing major damage to the packaging.  Lego markets itself as a premium product, and a pristine box on the shelf reinforces that image.  As soon as a box is opened, and has had to be ripped or cut in order to access the contents, it detracts from that image.  I appreciate, however, the need to balance this with not making boxes so accessible that thieves than get the contents out undetected.

    c)     Design.  While it doesn’t have an obvious link to sustainability – a good set is a good set – there is some potential here.  Sets which contain many unique parts don’t lend themselves to rebuilding and MOCing in the same way as a set with more generic parts.  If a purchaser can make multiple models out of one set, it requires fewer parts to be manufactured than if several sets need to be purchased.  You could argue that Lego’s primary concern (or at least one of them) is to sell as many sets as possible, but more parts = more impact on the environment.

     

     What characteristics of the LEGO experiences are relevant to consider when addressing "sustainable materials"?

    Probably covered above.

     

    Is there anything else you feel is important regarding Sustainable Materials that wasn´t covered in the questions above, that might help get a better view about the topic?

    While it probably wouldn’t apply to Bricksetters, what if Lego bricks were made from recyclable materials?  Our first thought is likely to be ‘I wouldn’t throw any pieces away.’, with a fallback position of ‘If I can’t use these pieces any more, I’ll find someone who does want them.’

    But whether we like it or not, there’s a good chance that every year, a substantial amount of Lego ends up in landfill.  What if they were made of something biodegradeable, or could be put through a process (like glass or paper), where they can be broken down and re-used for something else?

     

    kiki180703jason1976LegoKipglosminifigfanSirBensnowhitiebobabricks
  • Bosstone100Bosstone100 USAMember Posts: 1,265
    ^ there's a flip side to them being biodegradable. What happens to those of us who hang on to our collections? Do those pieces degrade and become useless?

    I would have been pretty pissed if my yellow castle and original space sets had disintegrated after all these years.
    BooTheMightyHamsterdougtsSirBenbobabricksTheBigLegoskiVorpalRyu
  • BooTheMightyHamsterBooTheMightyHamster Northern edge of London, just before the dragons...Member Posts: 974
    Fair point, @Bosstone100 - just thinking through some options.
  • Bosstone100Bosstone100 USAMember Posts: 1,265
    I know. Sometimes companies will focus on the short term and not look at the long term but then again, disintegrating would force people to buy more... if they really wanted it.
  • theLEGOmantheLEGOman UKMember Posts: 1,397
    Ask Mercedes about going green.

    Around 91-94 they used "green" wiring in the engine looms and Eta's - electric throttle bodies.

    Unfortunately these biodegrade on there own. Causing running problems and potentially damaging the ecu's.

    The wires sheath degrades then the wires start to touch each other. A replacement loom is circa £600, the eta £1000, easily £2500 including fitting.

    These are quality cars but not worth alot now. So when you pay £1500 for a car that could last you 10-15 years in luxury you dont want to spend 160% of the purchase price on a couple of engine bits, so essentially the useful life of the product has been halved.

    i have some LEGO branded modulex bricks that are circa 50 years old, LEGO is renowned for going on and on, being passed down from generation to generation.

    The feel and look of some LEGO parts has changed recently, is the current stuff still going to be going strong in 50 years? I'm not so sure.
    VorpalRyu
  • glosminifigfanglosminifigfan United KingdomMember Posts: 87

    2. What characteristics of the LEGO experience are currently most important to consumers? For each characteristic, please describe exactly what it is about. The more explanation you provide, the better we understand your input. Again, please rank your list, indicating the most important to the least.

    Purchase - the product is desirable and is packaged in an appealing way.

    Build - this is key for me. The build time is enjoyable (not frustrating or too repetitive), instructions are easy to follow, there is no problem with the individual elements, and the build time does not go too quickly.

    Play / Display- the set is fun to play with or/and is a good set to display.

    Longer term - deterioration is minimal, can be re-used and extended, or stored. Is still desirable to future generations.

    3. What characteristics of the LEGO experiences are relevant to consider when addressing "sustainable materials"? Rich descriptions and examples, please, and please rank your list, indicating the most important to the least.

    Bricks.. Similar to what has already been said, it would be important to me that there is no perceptible reduction in quality from what we already expect from Lego. The Lego itself must still look, feel, and last at least as well as it currently does. In my experience, Lego is often passed down at least one generation in families unlike many modern toys which have a much shorter life, and this should still continue with a more sustainable Lego. It has to stay noticeably superior to its rivals to justify its premium price.

    Packaging.. All but the smallest/cheapest sets should still come with a quality instruction manual and box. Ultimately manuals could go digital, but this makes the presumption that the builder always has ready access to a tablet/laptop and that these instructions will still be available for decades. I would still prefer a printed instruction manual and I suspect that some parents would not want to have children in front of a screen for any longer than they are already! However, perhaps young children are so used to tablet devices these days they would not miss printed instructions. The general reduction in box size (less unused space) in recent years was slightly concerning at first, but I got used to it quickly. There may be scope for reducing these further?

    When I think about what is 'wasted' when I buy a Lego set..the plastic bags the bricks come in are usually either discarded or otherwise never used again. I do not know what a viable alternative would be, but they are certainly a 'use once' item for me. I also have a pile of brick separators, and I only need one. 

  • oldtodd33oldtodd33 Denver 4800 miles to BillundMember Posts: 1,906
    ^That is two very good points I hadn't considered. They could make the bags in the boxes out of paper and stop putting a brick separator in every set, I have a large pile of them myself and I only need two to last my lifetime. As a matter of fact, I have often wondered if they sell the brick separators by themselves at all as everyone must have ten by now. 
    (1)Stein
  • Bosstone100Bosstone100 USAMember Posts: 1,265
    Yes, you can buy brick separators at Lego stores.
  • MissingBrickMissingBrick Member Posts: 24
    I have bricks from sets that are 40+ years old which still work fine. Therefore as far as I am concerned the existing lego materials are completely "sustainable" from an end-customer perspective.

    From a resource perspective, recent discoveries of vast shale gas and oil deposits mean fossil fuels are likely to last for >300 years after which we have 1000's of years worth of nuclear fuels - so I see no problem with the use of fossil fuels to manufacture lego for the foreseeable future.

    The only thing that's unsustainable IMHO is for a toy company to be pushing a highly contentious anti-human left-wing political agenda: namely the 'sustainability' scam.
    oldtodd33VorpalRyuMasterBeefyOldfan
  • drdavewatforddrdavewatford Hertfordshire, UKAdministrator Posts: 6,003
    Many thanks to all of you who provided your thoughts on these questions - much appreciated.

    I've sent your comments and suggestions back to LEGO ("I also have a pile of brick separators, and I only need one." - so true!) and will let you know if LEGO provide any feedback or further information about the project.
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