A Lego brick could survive in the ocean for up to 1,300 years, according to new research published in the journal Environmental Pollution.
Researchers at the University of Plymouth examined the extent to which children’s toys were worn down in the marine environment.
For the study, 50 pieces of weathered Lego were collected from the coastlines of South West England. By pairing those items with unweathered sets purchased in the 1970s and 80s, the researchers were able to identify levels of wear, and as a result how long the pieces may continue to exist.
By measuring the mass of individual bricks on beaches against equivalent unused pieces, the researchers estimated that the items could endure for anywhere between 100 and 1,300 years.
The researchers have said these findings reinforce the message that people need to think carefully about how they dispose of everyday household items.
Dr Andrew Turner, associate professor in environmental sciences said: ‘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 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 might also break down into microplastics. It once again emphasises the importance of disposing of used items properly to ensure they do not pose potential problems for the environment.’
In related news, researchers at the University of Plymouth found that wearing clothes can release even greater quantities of microplastics into the environment than washing them.
The researchers found that up to 400 fibres could be shed during just 20 minutes of wearing the item. Scaled up, these results indicated that one person could release almost 900 million polyester microfibres per year to the environment by simply wearing one polyester item.
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