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McDonald’s to offer more sustainable Happy Meal toys by end of 2025


A photo illustration of a Happy Meal at McDonald’s on November 3, 2010 in San Francisco, California.

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McDonald’s is pledging to offer sustainable Happy Meal toys made with dramatically less plastic by the end of 2025.

After launching the program in countries like France, Britain and Ireland in 2018, the fast-food company claimed that its use of virgin fossil fuel plastic-based plastic has been reduced by 30% in toys worldwide. The company would have reduced 90% of its use of virgin fossil fuel-based polymer in toys if it meets the Tuesday target.

Happy Meals are sold in more than 100 countries around the world at McDonald’s restaurants. The burger chain began selling the meals in 1979. After widespread concerns about the safety of children eating fast food, the company changed its menu to include healthier options.

Happy Meal toys have grown into a marketing mechanism for movies, TV series and other toys through partnerships with powerhouses like Disney, Warner Brothers and Hasbro. According to Amy Murray (Vice President of Global Marketing Enablement at McDonald’s), McDonald’s has more than one billion toys sold annually.

Murray explained that both parents and kids have asked for safer toys. In 2019, two British school children started a petition that generated international attention asking McDonald’s and Burger King to scrap the plastic toys in their children’s meal deals.

Some toys like the board games will use plant-derived and recycled materials. Other toys may have significant modifications to their appearance. Movie characters and superheroes will have 3-D cutouts, rather than plastic figurines. It is considering switching from plastic wrap to certified plant-based packaging.

Murray explained that the entire supply chain needs to adapt. This has been a huge undertaking. We’re actually just trying to change the way that we make Happy Meals.

Jenny McColloch, McDonald’s chief sustainability officer, said that the company is already learning from the feedback received in France, Ireland and the U.K., where toys are already being rolled out. They are designed to be safe for kids and durable enough.

Murray explained that franchisees will find the latest options “cost-neutral” because they are based on the price of the original product. The lower-plastic alternatives have been books and Pokemon cards in the past.

McColloch claims that the new, more durable toys will be available in America by January.

Fast-food chain McDonald’s is also trying to find ways to recycle plastic Happy Meal toys inside its restaurants. For example, its locations in Japan and the U.K. have used the plastic to make playgrounds and restaurant tables.

In 2018, McDonald’s announced that it would cut greenhouse gas emissions related to its restaurants and offices by more than a third between 2015 and 2030. It also stated that the company would reduce its carbon footprint in packaging.

McDonald’s shares have increased 11% in this year’s market, taking its value to $184 Billion.