Lego alternatives – without the plastic!

  • Date: May 13, 2022

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Lego is one of the most popular brands on the planet. Kids and adults alike just can’t seem to get enough of the stuff.  But they are made of plastic – and this brings different environmental issues both during production and after disposal. Lego are making strides forward to make their products more eco-friendly. But, in the meantime, are there any alternatives that will foster creativity but not harm the planet at the same time? Here we have a look at a few different plastic-free options…

1. Mokulock

As a direct swap for Lego, you won’t get more similar than Mokulock bricks. Hailing from Japan, they are manufactured from sustainably sourced wood from cherry, maple, white beech, birch and Japanese bigleaf Magnolia Zelkova trees. They are just simple unpainted, unvarnished Lego-compatible bricks (Duplo-compatible versions are available for the littler people). They, obviously, have a more natural look than their vibrant Lego counterparts, but they do vary in color from brick to brick depending on the exact wood they are made from.

These are quite awkward to source. Slightly harder to find in the US., than the UK – but any worries about shipping carbon emissions can be offset by the lack of plastic you are contributing to the world! We think so anyway.

What we like…

  • No plastic whatsoever!
  • Free from paints and varnishes
  • It is Lego compatible

What we don’t like…

  • Difficult to source!
  • Limited brick options available – there are no specific models or kits, just simple bricks.

2. Wooden models

There are lots of 3D wooden models out there that will test your patience and building ability, just like Lego but with the environmental bonus of being (generally) plastic free. Available in different complexities and models, you will be sure to find one that you want to assemble. From an environmental standpoint, the source of the wood is unknown in the unbranded models – not ideal. But in general, they are a great alternative.  

Just like Lego, some are functional after assembled – you can even make your own wooden clock or music player – whilst others are just there to be admired for their beauty!

What we like…

  • Lots of amazing designs to choose from
  • Can be painted or decorated with your own design

What we don’t like…

  • Some models contain additional components, such as plastic
  • It is difficult to determine if the wood is from a sustainable source.

3. Paper Nano

Paper Nano is a brand that offer highly intricate models made from paper. Kits available are varied, from world famous landmarks, such as the Taj Mahal, to ocean creatures. There really doesn’t seem to be anything that you can’t bend and sculpt paper into! In terms of the environment, when you are finished admiring your model (if ever) it will not end up in landfill, or the ocean, for centuries like the current plastic Lego bricks.

What we like…

  • Beautiful designs with lots of detail
  • Great quality materials

What we don’t like…

  • When they say ‘Nano’ they mean nano – the models are pretty small!
  • Can be difficult to assemble

4. Gigibloks

Designed more for the little ones in your life, Gigibloks are cardboard building boxes which can be used to build anything from a den to a castle. Although there are other large cardboard building bricks available, Gigibloks standout in the crowd due to their great interlocking feature. This ensures that the castle won’t topple over mid-game! That would be a bit inconvenient. 

What we like…

  • The interlocking blok system
  • They encourages creativity – the bloks can be painted or decorated in any way imaginable
  • There are no small parts, you can relax whilst the kids play!

What we don’t like….

  • A little more space needed than with the other Lego alternatives!

The bottom line

Lego is an iconic brand. But their current heavy use of non-biodegradable plastics makes them questionable in terms of the planet. Although wooden, cardboard and paper products bring their own carbon footprints and environmental impacts, they are favorable in many ways – their ability to biodegrade being key. However, let’s be honest, nothing quite compares with shiny, colorful Lego bricks and all the building options they bring. The sooner they can create a non-plastic, biodegradable option the better!