The LEGO Group has announced a huge research investment that looks to replace its iconic plastic bricks with pieces made from sustainable and environmentally friendly materials.

The deal, worth 1 billion Danish Krone (approximately US$150 million), involves the establishment of a LEGO Sustainable Materials Centre in Billund, Denmark, with the company seeking to recruit more than 100 specialists to work on ways to build colourful bricks from alternative raw materials.

"Our mission is to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow," Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, the LEGO Group owner, said in a statement.

"We believe that our main contribution to this is through the creative play experiences we provide to children. The investment announced is a testament to our continued ambition to leave a positive impact on the planet, which future generations will inherit."

It's no small task either. Last year alone, the company manufactured a stunning 60 billion individual LEGO pieces, so engineering a new production process using different kinds of raw materials will be a big job.

"There is no common definition of a sustainable material," said Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, LEGO's CEO and president. "Several factors influence the environmental sustainability of a material – the composition of the material, how it is sourced and what happens when the product reaches the end of its life. When we search for new materials all of these factors must be considered."

LEGO's not expecting an overnight success either. Rather, the Sustainable Materials Centre, which is set to be completed by the end of next year, is part of a long-term effort announced in 2013 that's geared towards the company using wholly sustainable materials by 2030.

LEGO's bricks have for decades been manufactured from acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic, and the company's move to make its components from sustainable materials follows on from other environmentally focused initiatives in recent years.

In 2013, LEGO announced a partnership with the WWF, and last year the LEGO Group cut ties with former retail partner Shell, preventing the oil company from selling LEGO products in its petrol stations.

The Shell move came after sustained pressure from Greenpeace, culminating in the stunning "Everything is NOT awesome" video, which definitely ranks high among our favourite pieces of toy-based propaganda! Give it a watch below.