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Brick by Brick: Danish Father beats Lego ® in race to build eco-plastic blocks

Steven van Bommel, a Dutch Father, has achieved what the toy giant Lego publicly set out to do – create sustainable building blocks with the “clutch power” of the infamous petroleum based plastic Lego - with his invention, Biobuddi. ®

BioBuddi are building blocks that look like Lego, play like Lego, “stick” like Lego, are compatible with Duplo® and yet made from the sustainable resource of sugar cane plant waste. 

Just 2% of Lego’s products, the world’s largest toy company, are considered sustainable, with small breakthrough pieces representing trees and flowers.  However, as Lego is well aware, it doesn’t meet the usual standards that ABS, the plastic component, offers; durability, colour fastness, strength, and “clutch power” - or how well two joined bricks stay together. 

According to the Wall Street Journal,Lego has invested $150 million to hire scientists and fund research and development.  Lego has so far tested more than 200 combinations of materials, but finding the material to hit its target is proving difficult. “I wouldn’t stake my family on it, but we have to believe we will do it,” says Tim Guy Brooks, Lego’s head of environmental responsibility

Van Bommel did stake his family on it.  It took van Bommel 5 years to achieve success, from the day his school-aged daughter inspired him to give up his plastic toy business and invest all his capital in her future.  In 2017 after a collaboration with Wageningen University, BioBuddi was born.   The bio-compound created has the requirements of flexibility and hardness, the bricks keep their shape. It is also easy to assemble and disassemble, even by the smallest children. 

The bio compound has been approved by TÜV Rheinland, Germany.  The sugar cane waste is produced by the manufacturing of other materials, the toy blocks can be recycled in the existing recycling systems. As a result, the production of the toy blocks saves up to 8 times the CO2 emissions in the atmosphere than plastic.   

People are discovering that the majority of toys are made from harmful oil-based plastics. In particular, brands such as LEGO, Mattel, Hasbro are large CO2 emitters and polluters. It is unprecedented that action has not been taken before. The large parties are now offering recycling collection campaigns, but this does not provide any solutions.” Van Bommel, owner, BioBuddi.

Lego beware.  According to Neilson, a data tracking firm, environmentally conscious shoppers have grown sustainable product sales by nearly 20 percent since 2014. By 2021, consumers are expected to spend $150 billion on sustainable goods.  

We have responded a clear trend; parents want the toys and games their children play with to be more eco-friendly, and are actively seeking out biodegradable toys.” Cecily Henderson, Director, PomPom, a pioneering stockists of BioBuddi in the UK.

BioBuddi have since sold 10 million toy blocks.  By the end of this year, the brand expects to have sold 100 million blocks.  For van Bommel, the bricks just click.

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