In 2019, McDonald’s Happy Meals got some unhappy feedback.
A couple of sustainability-minded sisters—ages 7 and 10—weren’t wild about the toys they were getting with their McNuggets and fries. Rather than essentially disposable trinkets made of plastic that isn’t recyclable, they started a petition to ask McDonald’s and Burger King to do better by the planet. It garnered 325,000 signatures.
Cutting back on virgin plastic
Now, McDonald’s is making some moves on the issue. The fast food giant makes over 1 billion toys per year, according to the brand’s vp of global marketing Amy Murray. Most of those items include virgin plastic made from fossil fuels.
By 2025, all of its Happy Meal toys will be “more sustainable,” said chief sustainability officer Jenny McColloch. That means cutting down on virgin plastic by 90%. McDonald’s plans to do that by incorporating more recycled plastic and plant-based plastic, as well as making more toys out of paper and cardboard.
Even the youngest consumers care about the planet
“We heard not just from parents, but from kids themselves,” Murray said. “They’re worried about the planet, they’re worried about animals, they’re worried about climate change.”
To come up with the new models for toys, McColloch said the brand is working with both scientists and kids. The goal is to ensure that the more sustainable products will also be entertaining for kids that fall into the Happy Meal age demographic.
McColloch said that McDonald’s wouldn’t be putting a cap on how much plastic is used in the new toys each year. “We’re focused on driving as much flexibility and innovation towards these more sustainable materials as we can,” she explained, reiterating the brand’s commitment to cutting back on virgin plastics.
Consumers will start to see more of these toys hitting U.S.-based McDonald’s restaurants starting in January. They’re already being trialed in France, Ireland and the U.K.; so far, Murray said, they’ve been well received by those markets.