McDonald’s has bowed to pressure from anti-plastic campaigners, announcing Happy Meals sold in the UK will not contain plastic toys from next year.
Instead the meals, which are aimed at young children, will contain either a soft toy, book, or paper gift. The move will eliminate more than 3,000 tonnes of plastic, McDonald’s said.
McDonald’s has faced fierce pressure from environmental campaigners on the issue, led by two school children from Hampshire.
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Ten-year-old Ella McEwan and eight-year-old Caitlin McEwan made headlines last year after organising a petition calling on Burger King and McDonald’s to stop handing out plastic toys.
“Children only play with the plastic toys they give us for a few minutes before they get thrown away and harm animals and pollute the sea,” the sisters wrote on the petition, which has gathered more than 550,000 signatures.
In September rival Burger King promised it would stop selling plastic toys with children’s meals. McDonald’s said at the time customers would be able to choose between a plastic toy or a sachet of fruit.
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Happy Meal 2.0
The fast food giant has now promised to follow Burger King and eliminate plastic toys entirely.
Chief marketing officer for McDonald’s UK & Ireland Gareth Helm 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.”
From this month McDonald’s said it will start trialling paper packaging for all its Happy Meal toys, and from May customers will be able to choose between a book or a plastic toy, giving them the choice to “opt out” of receiving plastic.
The company also announced plans for a five-week “toy amnesty” starting in May, with unwanted plastic toys collected and melted into playground equipment.
Sian Sutherland, co-founder of campaign group A Plastic Planet, urged McDonald’s to go even further to cut its plastic use.
“Well done to McDonald’s for taking action and considering the impact their products will have on those who will inherit the earth,” she said. “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.”
Published on inews.co.uk