By Kenneth Schwartz
It’s a problem generations of parents have struggled with — children grow up, take on other interests and leave behind their infatuation with Lego — the interlocking plastic bricks that have been a staple of toy boxes and playrooms for more than 60 years.
Legos are a staple for birthday and Christmas gifts for youngsters. Yet, boxes of unwanted used bricks clutter up basements, gather dust in attics and crowd bedroom closets.
There are few events more heartbreaking for a parent than hauling their children’s abandoned toys to the garbage can. To help with that, the company has come up with Lego Replay, a pilot program that tries to ensure the unwanted building blocks continue to make kids happy.
“Nearly all its bricks we see that are out there have lots more play value in them —multigenerations of play value,” Tim Brooks, vice president of environmental sustainability, said from Lego’s headquarters in Billund, Denmark. “It’s a waste of energy and resources to grind them up and make news bricks.”
Brooks said the idea came from parents who don’t know what to do with the old bricks — friends don’t always want them and not every municipality recycles them. Tossing old Legos in the garbage is not a solution. Birds and other wildlife may try to eat what looks like colorful food with fatal results.
Here’s how Lego Replay works: parents load into boxes the unwanted bricks — all shapes and colors. Then they go to the website and print out a postage-paid mailing label.
The boxes are sent to processing centers, where the bricks are sorted, cleaned and shipped to charities.
Two charities taking part in the pilot program are Teach for America and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston.
In just the last two months, Brooks said the two charities have gotten 3,000 boxes of Lego bricks. Nine-thousand shipping labels have been downloaded, meaning more boxes of bricks could be on the way.
“Lego has been compatible since 1958,” Brooks said, meaning the Lego bricks made 60 years ago can still be used as part of a Lego set manufactured just last week. “You can’t think of many things you can buy off the shelf today that work exactly with something you bought in the late 1950s. You have this amazing, durable, compatible product.”
The Lego Replay pilot program is set to last through March and, if successful, could be expanded to include other Lego products.
Meanwhile, Lego is looking at other materials to use in their toys. While plastic has proved to be the most durable material, Lego has begun making some pieces out of more environmentally friendly sugar cane. (VOA)