All Those Plastic Lego Brick Bags are FINALLY Going Away
Lego announced in September of this year that it will replace all those crinkly plastic brick bags in its sets with paper bags. The new bags will be phased in over a four-year period, starting in 2021.
The Lego bags, even though they are stamped with the recycling symbol and a '5' (5 PP indicates a type of plastic called polypropylene), are not accepted in curbside bins and are also not accepted in plastic bag/plastic film recycling programs. That's because plastic bag/film programs accept plastic bags and film composed of #2 (HDPE, or high density polyethylene) and #4 (LDPE, or low density polyethylene). And they're not accepted curbside because plastic bags and film clog up the machinery at materials recovery facilities (MRFs), potentially causing costly delays, shut downs, and even machinery damage.
We see these Lego brick bags often in our recycling program. Unfortunately, we can't accept them. Just because packaging has a recycling symbol and a number inside the symbol (the Resin Identification Code) on it doesn't mean it's actually recyclable.
That code simply identifies what type of plastic the packaging is made from. Here's a great example: red Solo cups are stamped with a recycling symbol and a #6 for 'polystyrene, but they're pretty much never recycled and almost always landfilled, even if you carefully clean them and put them in your curbside bin. No one wants #6.
LEGO BLISTER PACKAGING
This is another type of material that we frequently see in our recycling program. Yes, it's plastic, but we can't accept it, and you can't put it in your curbside bin, either. Blister packaging like this, as well as clamshells (berries, salads, etc.) are made of thermoformed plastic, as opposed to blow molded plastic like water bottles. To make a long story short, these types of plastic melt at different temperatures and thus cannot be recycled together. We did a blog entry on the recycling of clamshells and blister packs if you'd like to learn more on this subject: https://www.thepinkelephantspeaks.com/post/landfilled-even-when-clean-and-in-your-curbside-bin-here-s-why
This can all be so confusing, and it never feels good to tell people it's better just to throw something away. But including materials in your curbside bin or in our program that are not accepted can ultimately make recycling more expensive, as these materials have to be sorted and pulled out.
Kids have the right idea - they've been noticing all these plastic bags, and they're concerned. So they wrote letters to Lego. One girl wrote, “I thought it was a bit silly that the Lego Friends ocean rescue set came in the plastic bags that are harming our beautiful sea creatures.”
It seems Lego is finally starting to listen. Learn more about their sustainability initiatives here: https://www.lego.com/en-us/aboutus/sustainable-packaging/
You can learn more about our Recycling Program and Composting Program, including what we accept, here: https://www.pinkelephantproducts.com/wecanhelpyourecycle