July 7, 2020


Aim for Excellence

A Lego Brick That Falls in The Ocean Could Still Be Found 1,000 Years From Now

The world’s oceans are awash with tens of millions of tiny plastic Lego parts, and...

The world’s oceans are awash with tens of millions of tiny plastic Lego parts, and these toys-turned-pollutants are not likely everywhere at any time soon.

New investigation has located people classic Lego bricks take between one hundred and 1,300 many years to completely disintegrate at sea, relying on versions in the plastic’s composition and the marine weathering it encounters.


In 1997, approximately 5 million bits of Lego on a container ship fell overboard. Estimates also predict that around 2 million blocks have been flushed down the toilet by little ones, and relying on how powerful waste procedure was at the time, an not known proportion of people flushed in the 70s and 80s may possibly be bobbing all-around in the waves, too.

In the past decade, voluntary organisations like the LEGO Misplaced at Sea Venture have recovered 1000’s of plastic parts from our beach locations, but if these toys are genuinely as strong as the new investigation suggests, we have bought our get the job done slice out for us. In all chance, these tiny tiny blocks will hold coming in waves for centuries to come.

“Lego is one particular of the most preferred kid’s toys in background and part of its attractiveness has often been its toughness,” states Andrew Turner from the College of Plymouth, who research the chemical attributes of marine litter.


“It is especially made to be performed with and handled, so it may possibly not be specially stunning that even with potentially currently being in the sea for decades it is just not drastically worn down. However, the full extent of its toughness was even a shock to us.”

Gathering 50 Lego blocks from the beach locations of southwest England, scientists in contrast chemical compounds in the weathered samples to archived Lego blocks in their first ailment. 

(Turner et al., Environmental Air pollution, 2020)

The classic Lego brick is built of acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (Ab muscles), and although the organization hopes to use far more sustainable materials by 2030, this hard polymer has now finished far more than plenty of hurt.

While weathered blocks from the beach showed numerous levels of weakening, yellowing, blunting, fracturing and fouling, scientists have been amazed to locate the toys largely intact.

“Dependent on mass variation amongst paired samples that are about 40 many years outdated we estimate residence times in the marine ecosystem on the buy of hundreds of many years,” the authors create.

Exactly how these blocks entered the ecosystem is unclear, but they match up with merchandise sold in the nineteen seventies and 80s. And even with decades at sea, they’re still accomplishing alright, comparatively talking.

Maritime lifestyle may possibly have smoothed down their edges, dulled their plasticky shine, stunted their studs and pale their colors, but they are still far more than recognisable.

1 s2.0 S0269749119364152 fx1 lrg(Turner et al., Environmental Air pollution, 2020)

Plastic materials like Ab muscles are too new for us to know what will transpire to them in the extensive run, but research like this give us some notion of how they’ve coped so far.

The authors say their findings evaluate to the lifestyle expectancy of apparent plastic bottles, and judging by the weathering noticed so far, they probably place sea lifestyle at identical chance.

“The parts we analyzed had smoothed and discoloured, with some of the structures obtaining fractured and fragmented, suggesting that as effectively as parts remaining intact they may well also break down into microplastics,” states Turner.

“It as soon as again emphasises the significance of men and women disposing of utilised merchandise adequately to ensure they do not pose possible difficulties for the ecosystem.”

The examine was posted in Environmental Air pollution.