Study reveals LEGO bricks could survive in marine environment for up to 1,300 years

Based on a new research published by University of Plymouth, a LEGO brick can stay in the ocean for as long as 1300 years. The latest study has hence underlined the emergency of environmental pollution and draws attention to careful disposing of household items.

The study drew conclusions from the number of LEGO bricks found on beaches of South West England and compared it with blocks from storage. Results concluded that LEGO items could survive between 100 to 1,300 years.

The study examined 50 pieces of weathered LEGO, which was formed of acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS). These were then washed and weighed in the labs at the University.

The study further also examined the LEGO bricks through X-ray fluorescene (XRF) spectrometer. This helped in determining the age of individual bricks with regards to the presence of certain elements which were no longer in use.

These items were further compared with unused or unweathered sets from 1970s and 80s. As a result, researchers were able to recognize the levels of wear and their durability to last in the marine environment.

In the wake of the latest research, voluntary organizations from Cornwall, the LEGO Lost at Sea Project and Rame Peninsula Beach Care retrieved thousands of blocks, in addition to other plastic waste during regular beach cleans. Such surveys further revealed that the waste entered through household disposal process.

In wake of the latest study, Dr Andrew Turner, Associate Professor (Reader) in Environmental Sciences commented, “LEGO is one of the most popular children’s toys in history and part of its appeal has always been its durability. It is specifically designed to be played with and handled, so it may not be especially surprising that despite potentially being in the sea for decades it isn’t significantly worn down. However, the full extent of its durability was even a surprise to us.

“The pieces we tested had smoothed and discoloured, with some of the structures having fractured and fragmented, suggesting that as well as pieces remaining intact they might also break down into microplastics. It once again emphasises the importance of people disposing of used items properly to ensure they do not pose potential problems for the environment.”