McDonald's to Phase Out Happy Meal Toys Made of Plastic

Photo: (Photo : David Paul Morris/Getty Images)

McDonald's, the American fast-food giant, is completely cutting out Happy Meal toys made of plastic by 2025 as part of its drive for sustainability.

In a statement, Amy Murray, the company's head of global marketing, said that they are slowly changing their entire supply chain to reduce plastic use for Happy Meal toys. She added that this would be a massive undertaking across its global outlets, which will focus on recycled or plant-derived toy materials.

Trials for these toys have already rolled out in Ireland, France, and the United Kingdom, where feedback has been a learning opportunity to improve the products. The company said that they want to continue offering "safe and sturdy," as well as "cost neutral" Happy Meal toys despite changing the materials. By January 2022, McDonald's sustainable toys will be available across outlets in the United States.

These toys have become a vital marketing tool for movies and TV shows in the last two decades. Every year, McDonald's sells more than a billion Happy Meal products around the world.

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For The Next Generation

"Our next generation of customers care deeply about protecting the planet," Jenny McCulloch, McDonald's chief sustainability officer, said. "We're always exploring where we can drive greater impact."

McDonald's plan to use recycled or renewable materials will drive down fossil fuel plastic use by as much as 90 percent. Its impact has been compared to the size of Washington D.C.'s population if all of its residents were to give up plastic use for a year.

According to CNN, the rollout means that the company will no longer offer plastic figurines for Happy Meal toys. Instead, young customers will enjoy 3D toys made of paper, which the kids can make themselves. The company is also considering trading cards, board games, and other toys that will spark the child's creativity and love for play.

The move has been a long time coming for British siblings Ella and Caitlin McEwan, who created a petition in 2019 asking McDonald's and other fast-food chain stores to ditch plastic toys that come with their children's meals. More than half a million supporters signed the sisters' petition on Change.Org, which prompted McDonald's to pilot test its newest toy products.

Yet McCulloch said that the company had been driven to innovate their toys even before the petition came about. They have started introducing eco-friendlier toys in some European outlets in 2018. Nevertheless, McCulloch said that McDonald's will always listen to its customers to serve their needs better.

More Green Action for McDonald's

From 2015 to 2030, the fast-food chain has also pledged to target a reduction of its greenhouse gas emissions in its restaurant operations by 36 percent. McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook said they are working with partners and franchisees to increase recycling, reduce waste, support renewable energy, and adopt a more sustainable way to source food supply.

Since the announcement, some outlets in U.K. and Japan have shifted to LED lighting and changed their trays and packages to recyclable materials. The company also pledged support for more better agricultural practices, especially in its beef and chicken production.

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