To bolster sensitivity against plastic contamination, a study led by the University of Plymouth examined the extent to which LEGO construction set items wear out in the marine environment .
The study , published in the journal Environmental Pollution , focused on LEGO pieces found off the coast of south-west England. The researchers estimated that these items could last between 100 and 1,300 years.
Thousands of pieces and other plastic debris during regular beach clean-ups have been recovered over the past decade by voluntary organizations in Cornwall, England, including Rame Peninsula Beach Care and the LEGO Lost at Sea Project.
For this particular study, 50 pieces of worn-out LEGO, built with acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), were washed. The chemical characteristics of each block were then determined using an X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer.
According to Andrew Turner , study leader:
The parts we tested were softened and discolored, and some of the structures fractured and fragmented, suggesting that in addition to the parts that remain intact, they could also break down into microplastics. Again, the importance of people disposing of used items properly and ensuring that they do not pose potential problems for the environment is emphasized.
On January 28, 1958, the LEGO group patented the now famous studded blocks with tubes inside. Every year about 45,000 million pieces are sold on average : placed side by side, they would go around the world 18 times.