LEGO produces roughly 19 billion elements each year [PDF], and until recently, most of those bricks, minifigures, and accessories were made using oil. Now, the toy company has announced that it's experimenting with more sustainable production methods for certain items. As Mashable reports, the company will start selling 'botanical' pieces made from real plants this year.
To craft the new type of material, LEGO is sourcing sugarcane from Brazil. The crops are grown on agricultural land rather than former rainforests, and the sourcing has received the stamp of approval from the Bioplastic Feedstock Alliance, an organization that encourages corporations to make sustainable, plant-based plastics.
Making LEGO parts from sugarcane results in a softer plastic, so the new method will only be used to make plant pieces like leaves, bushes, and trees for now. The bioplastic botanicals will start appearing in LEGO boxes this year and become standard by the end of 2018.
“The LEGO Group’s decision to pursue sustainably sourced bio-based plastics represents an incredible opportunity to reduce dependence on finite resources," Alix Grabowski, a senior program officer at the World Wildlife Fund, said in a release from LEGO.
Though the switch will reduce the company's carbon footprint, the bioplastic botanicals still only make up of a small fraction of their total product line. LEGO says the change represents one step in its mission to use sustainable materials in core products and packaging by 2030.