They’re colourful, they’re fun and they can keep you busy for hours, but Legos can also cause huge damage to the environment.
A recent study published by the University of Plymouth in the UK shows how millions of plastic Lego pieces end up in seas and oceans around the world and how these colourful, plastic toys can take up to 1300 years to disintegrate.
The researchers collected 50 Lego blocks that had washed up on beaches in Southern England and compared their chemical composition to Lego blocks from an archived collection. The research showed that the blocks probably date as far back at the 1970’s and 1980’s and despite spending close to 50 years underwater, they had not been too badly damaged!
Although the pieces were discoloured and slightly worn down, they seem to have survived their underwater adventure mostly intact, which was surprising even to those who were conducting the study. Based on the level of wear and tear, the scientists were able to estimate that Lego blocks would survive underwater for between 100 – 1300 years!
Legos are made from a material called acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), which seems to be a virtually indestructible substance that is really bad for the environment. If you have ever stepped on a piece of Lego, you know just how solid it is! Over the years, Lego has faced a lot of negative publicity for using ABS and has claimed that they will move to using more sustainable materials by 2030, but that might be too late.
How did all these Lego pieces get into the sea anyway?
In 1997, an incident called the Lego-Spill occurred when nearly 5 million Lego blocks were dropped into the sea from a container ship and the researchers estimate another 2 million pieces are flushed down the toilet by kids and make their way to the sea through sewage system!
There are several not-for-profit agencies in the UK that are trying to clear up lost Lego pieces from the sea and from beaches around the country, but unfortunately, it is possible that these popular toy bricks will be washing up on the shore for centuries to come unless we all start to be more aware and start caring for the environment and marine life.
Written by: Disha Mirchandani. Disha is a former lawyer turned freelance content writer. She is a fitness enthusiast and amateur aerialist with her own fitness photo-blog as well.