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Lego to stop producing petroleum-based plastic bricks

Lego announces a $150 million plan to seek a sustainable, environmentally friendly alternative to the oil-based plastics it has traditionally used.

Lego aims to be manufacturing both the Lego toys and its packaging in sustainable materials by 2030. U. Baumgarten via Getty Images

Less than a year after Lego announced the dissolution of its 50-year-old promotional contract with oil and gas company Shell under pressure from environmental group Greenpeace, the massively popular toy company has announced further plans to move away from the petroleum industry.

By the end of 2016, the company will establish a Lego Sustainable Materials Centre at the Lego headquarters in Billund, Denmark, with the aim to be manufacturing both the Lego toys and its packaging in sustainable materials by 2030.

"This is a major step for the Lego Group on our way towards achieving our 2030 ambition on sustainable materials," Lego Group CEO and President Jørgen Vig Knudstorp said in a statement.

"We have already taken important steps to reduce our carbon footprint and leave a positive impact on the planet by reducing the packaging size, by introducing FSC certified packaging and through our investment in an offshore wind farm. Now we are accelerating our focus on materials."

The Lego Sustainable Materials Centre will concentrate its efforts on finding the best new material from which to build its blocks. The Centre is looking to hire over 100 new staff specialising in material sciences, in addition to current employees. The company will also collaborate with the World Wildlife Fund, with which Lego has maintained a Climate Savers partnership, to assess the sustainability and impact of the new materials.

More than 60 billion Lego pieces were manufactured from over 77,000 metric tons of raw material in 2014, the company said -- so making the switch to sustainable materials would significantly reduce Lego's negative environmental impact.

It is deeply important to Lego, however, that it also maintains its safety standards. This will mean extensive testing of all materials before they can be considered as a replacement for the ABS plastic Lego currently uses in most of its products.

"This is paramount to us as it enables us to provide children with a unique play experience that inspires and develops them and enables them to build a better tomorrow," Knudstorp said.

"This is ultimately the reason for our continued efforts to always do better."