McDonald's ditches plastic Happy Meal toys for sustainable options

© Getty Images

Nintendo characters Mario and Luigi enjoy Happy Meals on July 12, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. The fast-food chain is ditching plastic toys for more sustainable options

– Getty Images

McDonald’s says it will no longer include plastic toys in Happy Meals by the end of 2025 and make the switch to items made from renewable and recycled materials.

The move to more eco-friendly toys will reduce its virgin, fossil fuel-based plastic use by 90 per cent, the company said, equivalent to more than 650,000 people entirely eliminating plastics each year.

The fast-food chain introduced the Happy Meal, served in a red box with smiley face and McDonald’s golden arches as handles, in the late Seventies to appeal to children. Along with a traditional burger or chicken nuggets, drink and side, it contained a toy, often tied to a movie or TV promotion.

The Happy Meal has gone through various iterations. A decade ago, McDonald’s took steps to make the meal healthier by adding fruit and reducing the portion size of fries.

“Our customers who love experiencing Happy Meals with the kids in their lives today also care deeply about protecting the environment for this next generation’s future,” said Jenny McColloch, McDonald’s chief sustainability officer, in a statement.

She added: “Protecting the planet for our shared future demands that we look at all parts of our business, including the customer experience.”

Environmental advocates welcomed the news but said that McDonald’s should go further.

“Plastic Happy Meal toys have long been an unnecessary source of waste and pollution, but McDonald’s needs to stop nibbling around the edges of sustainability,” said Stephanie Feldstein, population and sustainability director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

“McDonald’s serves billions of burgers a year, with massive consequences for our climate. According to the company’s own records, beef is responsible for 29 per cent of its carbon footprint. If McDonald’s really wants to create sustainable change, it can’t stop at plastic-free toys. The company needs to overhaul its menu, put the McPlant in every restaurant and reduce the amount of beef it serves too.”

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