While we love the nostalgia of watching our kids find surprise goodies in their McDonald’s Happy Meals, we know all too well that each plastic trinket will be yet another addition to their army of unused toys—and further harm our planet in the process. Now, the fast-food fave is working to end that wasteful cycle by trading the plastic for greener alternatives.
In an effort to become more sustainable, McDonald’s announced on Tuesday that the company will dramatically reduce the amount of plastic used in its Happy Meal toys by 2025. Instead, they’re working to develop new items made from renewable, recycled or certified materials. Their once-plastic figurines (the ones you find in every crevice of your home) will be swapped for paper-based cutouts, board games and books. The company will also be switching its plastic wrapping for plant-based and premium certified fibre packaging.
McDonald’s already began this transition back in 2018. Since then, countries like the UK, Ireland and France have rolled out new toys like sustainably made 3D paper superheroes that kids can put together themselves. The company’s chief sustainability officer, Jenny McColloch, said this switch has already led to a 30 per cent slash in virgin fossil fuel-based plastic use worldwide. If the burger joint continues with its pledge, this number will jump to 90 per cent as compared to 2018. (To put that into perspective, they say that’s as if the entire population of Washington, DC cut plastic from their lives for a year.)
The fast-food giant is also exploring ways to recycle old Happy Meal toys. In the UK and Japan, the plastic has already been used to create new trays and playgrounds.
For a company that sells more than 1 billion toys a year, the impacts of this change could be huge—for our children’s futures, and for the lives of parents everywhere who are sick of stepping on jagged plastic toys.