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The toys that go into McDonald’s Happy Meals will soon be made primarily from corn and other materials rather than fossil-fuel-based plastic, according to the fast food chain. The change is already underway in some international markets; it is expected to be completed globally by 2025.
“Making our toys from renewable, recycled or certified materials will result in an approximate 90% reduction in fossil fuel-based plastic in Happy Meal toys. [compared with 2018]”the company said when announcing the plan on Tuesday.
The benefits of the change will amount to more than 650,000 people not using plastic for a year, the company said.
The change is already complete in France
McDonald’s has been serving Happy Meals to children for over 40 years – and many of these special bags and boxes contain a plastic trinket or figurine. But it phased out plastic toys from its restaurants in France earlier this year in favor of paper-based items such as collectible cards and coloring designs.
French customers can also ignore a toy altogether if they choose a book to accompany children’s meals in the “Un livre ou un toy” program.
McDonald’s restaurants in the UK and Ireland are also in the process of switching to new toys that reduce plastic use, the company said.
Next step: target straws and plastic packaging
Of course, Happy Meal toys are only a fraction of the plastic that passes through McDonald’s daily in the form of straws, cutlery and other items.
Packaging is one of the biggest opportunities for business change, McDonald’s said, acknowledging that “when plastic packaging and waste is not collected or recycled properly, it can have a negative impact on our planet,” creating waste and pollution “.
Using recycled plastic for trays and toys, the company said, will increase demand for recycled plastic in addition to diverting those materials from landfills and potential sources of pollution.
These measures are part of a McDonald’s effort to get “100% of its customer packaging from renewable, recycled or certified sources, and to recycle customer packaging in 100% of McDonald’s restaurants by 2025”.
In its latest progress report, the company said it was now 80% of the way to meeting its guest packaging target. The recycling effort is progressing more slowly, in part because of the lack of infrastructure.
“By the end of 2020, we have offered customers the ability to recycle packaging waste at over 25% of restaurants in our 30 largest markets,” McDonald’s said.