Every McDonalds Happy Meal in the UK and Ireland will include either a soft toy, paper-based toy or book from 2021, the fast-food chain announced yesterday.
The change will remove over 3,000 tonnes of plastic from across the business from 2021, the largest single reduction in the restaurant’s drive to reduce plastic waste to date. The move is part of McDonald’s sustainability plan, which includes a target to source all packaging from renewable or recycled sources by 2025.
McDonald’s said it is now trialing several ideas to make its Happy Meal more sustainable. From March 2020, it will try out paper packaging for the toys. The paper packaging will also be introduced for books, with plastic wrapping removed entirely from 2021, representing a further saving of 200 tonnes of plastic.
From May 2020, customers will be offered the choice of a book or a toy with every Happy Meal, giving families the choice to opt out of a plastic gift. The company will also run a five-week amnesty, collecting any unwanted plastic toys in its 1,350 restaurants and recycling the returned plastic into play equipment for Ronald McDonald House Charities across the UK and Ireland.
Gareth Helm, senior vice president, chief marketing officer for UK and Ireland at the company, said: “Families have high expectations of us and we’re working as hard as we can to give them the confidence that their Happy Meal is as sustainable as possible. Getting that right is a big responsibility, but we believe the changes we’re making today have the potential to make a big difference.”
The move was welcomed by campaign group A Plastic Planet, which had lobbied McDonalds to abandon plastic toys. “The sheer volume of plastic saved from the UK’s McDonald’s alone, 3,000 metric tons, shows the crazy extent of our plastic addiction,” said Sian Sutherland, co-founder of the organisation. “Well done to McDonald’s for taking action and considering the impact their products will have on those who will inherit the earth. Now is the time for them to push on. Eliminate plastic from their restaurants and lead the fast-food industry forward in tackling the crisis.”
The move is the latest in a series of steps across the fast food industry to crack down on plastic waste. In September, Burger King launched a plastic toy amnesty, with a plan to donate all toys to be melted down and turned into play equipment for its restaurants.