For many of us, what we thought were adorable little toys as youngsters we now view as today’s non-recyclable waste problem. But kids nowadays are savvier. Two young sisters started a campaign asking McDonald’s to include sustainable toys in Happy Meals. On Monday, the giant burger corporation announced that by 2025, Happy Meals will contain more sustainable toys.
Young Londoners Ella and Caitlin Wood gathered 325,000 signatures since starting a petition in 2018. Their mother, Rachel Wood, supported her daughters’ activism. “You open a plastic bag to get another plastic item, which is played with for five minutes and then probably goes in the bin,” she told the Wall Street Journal when they reported on the campaign in 2019.
McDonald’s produces more than one billion toys every year, most of which include virgin plastic made with fossil fuels. The new plan is to cut virgin plastic use by 90% over the next few years. Instead, the fast-food chain aims to use more paper and cardboard. For example, consumers might get a bunch of cardboard pieces to assemble into Batman instead of a plastic figurine.
Kids in Ireland, France and the U.K. have already test-driven some of the new toys. McDonald’s will introduce them to the U.S. market starting in January 2022. Then, the toys will trickle into the 100 plus other countries that consume Happy Meals.
Getting a major corporation to cut down on 90% of virgin plastic use to make a billion toys annually is a big accomplishment for people of any age, especially a couple of preteen activists. But the burger chain still has no end of critics who say the real problem is the burgers. Between the methane produced by beef cattle — the largest agricultural source of greenhouse gas emissions — and the rainforests cleared to raise cattle, many activists would like to see McDonald’s put something else between its buns.
Stephanie Feldstein, population and sustainability director at the Center for Biological Diversity, suggested in a statement that McDonald’s should reduce its beef use and “stop nibbling around the edges of sustainability.”
Lead image via Hilda Solis