Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Lego's search for ABS

The Quest for ABS

Alternative approaches for plastic materials (featuring Lego!)

The PS Buzz should invest in a staff set of Lego... for research purposes
 June 2015

Lego dropped a big bomb this month, revealing their plan to spend $184 million for developing a sustainable alternative for their production lines.  While yes, it’s important that the new material must be compatible with Lego that was produced generations ago, blah blah blah. Keeping in mind that whatever material the Danish company decides upon, it will obviously be something that isn’t going to break the mold.

So putting aside all of the insane engineering that will have to go into designing the chosen material (honestly people, they melt plastic into easy to connect shapes) the PS Buzz would like to look at the current materials being used.  Hopefully we’ll be able to provide some factoids on how other companies have developed sustainable alternatives for their production lines.

Acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (say that five times fast) commonly known as ABS, is a type of plastic that is pretty darn handy.  It’s also incredibly energy intensive to produce (consuming approximately 95 MJ of energy per kg of industrial plastic) and guess what? It usually uses high energy fuel sources like natural gas and petroleum products to make it.

Long story short, Lego produces a whole bunch of it, and it’s not exactly composed of eco-friendly materials.

The technology company Siemens -they make stuff, mostly with plastic- has recently developed an alternative using renewable based polymers AND (the best part) C02.  That’s right, plastic that can sequester carbon.

Now we at the Buzz have issues with one of the ingredients being used by Siemens (palm oil-we recommend checking our link on the sustainability of palm oil!).  Did you know that harvesting Palm Oil is currently under scrutiny?  That’s right; our healthy vegetable oil may actually be hurting the environment, causing deforestation and destruction of peat lands.


According to the World Wildlife Fund, an area equivalent to 300 football fields of rainforest is cleared each hour to make way for palm oil production.
Why care or even mention it? Peat lands help act as naturally occurring carbon stores, if you take away this vegetation then the greenhouse gas has nowhere to go other than our atmosphere. (Neat huh? Not really.)  Another big consideration people should be making is where their vegi-oil is coming from.  A big reason this type of deforestation isn’t on our main radar is because it tends to happen in countries that are willing to expand their agricultural trade (Thailand, Malaysia, Colombia, and others) even if it means risking the sustainability of their ecosystems.

 Enough hippy-dippy digression, it still needs to be said that Siemens and Lego are aiming for a leap in the right direction.  This type of development will hopefully gain steam, and more businesses will ideally find even better alternatives.

That’s all for this article, we’ve provided links to those that are interested in finding out how to get your hands on a piece of that $184 million.  Just imagine the idea of sequestering carbon with Lego- I think the little kid in us just did a back flip.

References:

CBC- Lego invests $185M finding alternative to wasteful plastic for its bricks
http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/lego-to-spend-185-4m-finding-alternative-to-wasteful-plastic-for-its-bricks-1.3125664

Siemens- ABS Alternative C02, Palm Oil and Starch
http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=244239

Palm Oil- Cooking the Planet
http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/features/palm-oil_cooking-the-climate/