Plastic Pollution

Legoland's Plastic Straw Ban Is the Height of Environmental Virtue Signaling

Plastic toys, sí! Plastic straws, no!


Massimo Parisi/

Legoland, a theme park dedicated to celebrating plastic toy bricks, has announced that as of next year it will no longer provide single-use plastic straws to park visitors.

The decision came down last week from Merlin Entertainments, a British company that operates 120 attractions worldwide, including nine Legoland parks.

"Like many of our guests, we are concerned about the negative environmental impact associated with the disposal of plastic straws," says Merlin CEO Nick Varney in a press release. "It is something we can act on immediately as we continue to assess how we minimize the use of plastics within our business."

By December 31, the company says, there will be no single-use plastic straws or lids in Legoland's Florida park. Alternatives to single-use plastic straws will be provided only if required for a product or at a visitors' request.

The straw crackdown at Legoland parks comes a few months after the makers of the actual Lego toys announced their own anti-plastic initiative.

In March, The Lego Group—a separate entity from Legoland parks—announced that from now on, all the plastic trees, plants, and other "botanical elements" it produces will now be made of sugar cane–sourced plastic, which is biodegradable. The company has also committed to using "sustainable materials" in "core products and packaging" by 2030.

That Lego and Legoland have both made a public show of cracking down on plastic use shows both how far the anti-plastics movement has come in such a short time and how divorced from real environmental concerns it actually is.

According to the BBC, Lego sells some 75 billion plastic bricks each year globally. A big consumer of these bricks, is, of course, Legoland.

The newest park, which opened in Dubai in 2016 contains some 15 million Lego bricks. Assuming each of these bricks weighs 1.35 grams—the weight of a standard 2×2 Lego brick, according to Bricklink—that adds up to about 20 metric tons, or one percent of the plastic estimated to get into the word's oceans each year.

Needless to say, this a huge amount of plastic.

If Merlin Entertainment and Lego were truly concerned about the negative effects of plastic consumption on their environment, one would think they would have to reconsider much more than the amount of straws their theme parks consume. And while biodegradable plastics are less dangerous if they wind up in the ocean, only about 1–2 percent of Lego's products are made of biodegradable plastics; the vast majority are still standard, petrolum-based plastics.

Indeed, most of the arguments deployed to justify straw bans would be applied with even greater force to banning Legos.

Unlike straws—which some disabled people actually require—no one needs Legos. They're just a toy, after all, and one for which there exists numerous biodegradable alternatives, from wooden blocks to BuckyBalls. Who knows? Maybe Legos could function as a "gateway plastic" whose prohibition encourages former Lego users to look for other plastics they can cut out of their lives. That, after all, is what various activists have said about banning plastic straws.

That neither Merlin or The Lego Group are considering going into retirement suggests two not necessarily mutually exclusive things. One, that the companies' commitment to lessening the impact of plastics on the global environment is superficial. Two, that they understand their own plastic products are not really part of the problem.

Almost all of the plastic that gets into the world's oceans each year comes from countries with poor waste management systems that allow of a lot of trash to leak into the environment. These are, unsurprisingly, poorer countries. By contrast, the United States and Europe, which host six of the world's nine Legoland parks, are responsible for roughly two percent of annual marine plastic waste.

Private companies are of course free to have whatever straw policy they want. But for plastic pushers to single out plastic straws is hypocritical—and it gives cover to an unscientific and pettily authoritarian anti-straw crusade.

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  1. Legos never get thrown away. They just accumulate in bags and bins.

    An amusement park. That caters to small children. Without straws or lids for the soft drinks? Does this man have kids? I suppose the plan to to upsell everyone to the “free refill character sippy cup.”

    1. No duh!

    2. Legos never get thrown away. They just accumulate in bags and bins.

      I commend your wife for doing all the vacuuming.

      1. LOL. My kids don’t actually play with them, so they don’t get vacuumed.

        1. My oldest is a fan and the younger ones are less… refined in their appreciation. He’s got a couple pieces that are as good as when he put them together but usually whatever he built succumbs to entropy and undergoes a sort of erosion that wears the M2 Bradley (or whatever) back down to studs. My wife is always careful to warn him before knowingly vacuuming up a significant collection of parts, but I know at least one or two pieces were beyond repair and couldn’t motivate him to prevent her from vacuuming them up and throwing them out.

  2. Straw bans are silly, but…straws are single use, legos are not. You could have at least a modicum of understanding for your opponents reasoning before throwing out a superficial and intellectually lazy charge of hypocrisy.

    1. Soon, it won’t matter if it’s single use or not, plastic is evil man!

      1. What’s needed is common sense plastic control, which (in all honesty, although this will never be mentioned) will not be achieved until there is a total ban on plastic- everywhere, for everything.

    2. They may not be single-use, but all of them eventually age or break, and a significant number do end up in the trash. And, as the article says, Legos are not a necessity. How irresponsible for them to use evil, polluting plastic on such a frivolous item. They are fully vulnerable to the irony of their position.

    3. The “science” cited by many experts was derived from an experiment conducted by a nine year old in Australia and grossly inaccurate. Should we be concerned about plastic in oceans? Sure. Is banning straws going to make a difference? Not according to calculations that say that if the 8.3 billion straws out there washed up in the ocean tomorrow they would make up .03% of plastic trash…draw your own conclusion on how effective this is going to be.

  3. I love stories like this. This is fucking hilarious.

    1. This one is especially good since it’s all based on the “research” of a single grade-school student.

  4. Millennials and their tacky practice of blowing coke up a party girl’s asshole using a plastic straw!

    Gentlemen use a rolled-up $20 and lets the playgirl keep the twenty.

    Sheesh — whatever happened to elegance….

    1. I am obviously doing something wrong.

    2. What the heck is this millenial obsession with “butt stuff”? Afraid of vaginas much?

      1. Vagina dentata.

      2. I blame porn. Anal sex is way over-represented.

        Anyway, everyone knows you put the coke on your dick.

        1. >>>everyone knows you put the coke on your dick.

          finally some not fake news.

      3. >>>Afraid of vaginas much?

        afraid of literally everything includes vaginas. especially vaginas.

    1. I’m both delighted and horrified that lego can, down to the piece, account for what was in that cargo container.

  5. Does this mean my family should stop our annual Christmas tradition of chartering a boat to the center of the North Pacific Gyre to dispose of all the Lego we bought over the last year?

  6. I see a fantastic business opportunity for Lego, or someone else if they aren’t quick enough — biodegradable Lego bricks which disintegrate within five years — long enough to survive a kid growing up, not long enough to pass down or sell at a yard sale.

    Forced obsolescence FTW!

    1. OMG. I dug my treasured stash of legos out of my mom’s attic so that my kids could have them.

      They were trashed. I was apparently a rough kid, and had a much less impressive collection than I remembered…

  7. Sorry yuppie scum Republicans, the culture has changed. Whether plastic or cocaine, the decade of unapologetic gluttony and addiction is long gone and not coming back; society at large will no longer pay for your lack of self-control.

    1. Nor will society at large gorge itself at the bottomless trough of government revenue collected from evil moneyed hedonists. Your culture peaks with everyone wearing drab clothing waiting 2 hours on queue to buy toilet paper.

      1. What on Earth are you talking about? What does that have to do with my brilliant link and witty copy?

        1. Your culture peaks with everyone wearing drab clothing

          Fidel wore the drabs. You are thinking about Cubans not Puerto Ricans.

          waiting 2 hours on queue to buy toilet paper

          That is just because Trump only brought the Brawny towels when he came here, forgot the TP.

  8. >>>no one needs Legos.

    who are you?

    1. Entertainment and play are luxury items, but there is a certain puritanical sensibility in expressing it in that way that is fascinating.

      1. >>>Entertainment and play are luxury items

        stating it this way doesn’t result in immediate middle finger extension.

  9. Lego went off the deep end long before straw mania. I believe the turning point was when they capitulated to the guerilla campaign from the morons at Green”peace” and abandoned their promotion at Shell gas stations. It seemed kind of appropriate to be able to get neat little solid crude oil products at the same time as filling your tank with the refined distillate. Fuck Greenpeace.

  10. Straws are certainly less of an environmental issue than Legos. I think I can speak for everyone that has ever stepped on a Lego barefoot, especially with the heel, that the long overdue banning of Legos should be put in place soon. However, I believe podiatrists have cabal in place with Lego. The fight against those two lobbies will be a great one.

    It’s time we break this toy hegemony by Lego. Repave them with fully recyclable erector sets. In time of metal shortage tinker toys and Lincoln logs will suffice.

    1. I thought I proofread. Alas, I failed miserably.

    2. Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs are still the best go-to construction toys for young kids going.

  11. Busch Gardens instituted a straw ban earlier this year. When I asked for a straw for my son’s smoothie last week, the response was a smug, “We don’t have any straws or lids at this park!”

    Let me tell you, my son really enjoyed slurping his smoothie with a PLASTIC FUCKING SPOON which likely had more weight than the straw it replaced.

    1. Silly Kook, thinking you know what your child needs better than an amusement park.

      “Bush Gardens, what I think my kid needs most is to not come to your park any more”

  12. I was at the Kennedy Space Center this weekend. Paper straws. What nonsense. And they are a pain.

  13. The important thing is not common sense, but virtue signaling: i.e., giving all indications of acting in accord with the latest lefty fad du jour without regard to making sure that it actually is based on anything resembling reasonable thought. Somewhere there’s a progressive puppet master laughing his head off and asking his closest minions “what dance can we make them do next week?”

    Never forget: “climate change” used to be “global warming”. Just sayin’

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  15. A surprisingly poor article with superficial reasoning. I expected better of Reason.

    Production of plastic isn’t the issue at hand. A straw is far more likely to end up in the ocean than a Lego brick.

    Also, they’re transitioning to bio-plastics, starting small (because that’s what transitioning means) and they are dismissed and criticised for it.

    (I’m NOT saying banning straws is definitely a great thing, just that the arguments here are shoddy. Straws are a small part of the problem, especially if litter is managed. Only giving them on request would be sensible.)

    1. Also, the straw is more likely to be consumed, mistaken for a piece of sea create rather than a rock.

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