The sky turns red as the sun sets behind a McDonalds restaurant in Southport on Jan. 19, 2020 in Southport, Lancashire, UK. Plastic toys will no longer be offered with McDonald's UK Happy Meals.
Anthony Devlin / Contributor / Getty Images
The activism of two British schoolgirls seems to have finally paid off.
More than one year ago, sisters Ella and Caitlin McEwan started a petition calling on McDonald’s and Burger King to stop giving out plastic toys with children’s meals. McDonald’s UK originally responded with an automated email, but on Tuesday, the company pledged to stop putting hard plastic toys in its Happy Meals, The Independent reported.
“This represents the biggest reduction in plastic by McDonald’s UK and Ireland to date and is the next step in its mission to reduce its environmental impact across all areas of the business,” McDonald’s said in a statement reported by AFP, as published in The Jakarta Post.
From new toy packaging to removing non-sustainable plastic, we’re always working hard to make our Happy Meals even happier! ☺️ pic.twitter.com/lNiwyGHxdM
— McDonald's UK (@McDonaldsUK) March 17, 2020
Starting in 2021, the company will replace all plastic toys in the UK and Ireland with either a soft toy, a paper toy or a book. This will cut the chain’s plastic use by 3,000 metric tons (approximately 3,307 U.S. tons), it estimated.
Before 2021, the company also announced various steps to ease the transition, according to The Independent.
- Starting this month, the company will test paper packaging for Happy Meals.
- Beginning in August, the paper will also wrap books in Happy Meals.
- In two months, children can choose between a toy or a book in a meal.
- At the same time, the company will organize a “toy amnesty” in which children can recycle old toys in designated bins, where they will be used to make play equipment for the Ronald McDonald House Charities.
Environmental campaigners applauded the announcement, but said the company could do more.
“Well done to McDonald’s for taking action and considering the impact their products will have on those who will inherit the earth,” A Plastic Planet co-founder Sian Sutherland told iNews. “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.”
Ella and Caitlin, now aged 10 and 8, launched the petition after learning about plastic pollution in school.
“The girls have had lots of lessons about protecting the environment and they were quite worried about it,” Rachael, their mother, told The Daily Mail in Nov. 2018. “Ella came home after they’d seen a short film about plastics in the sea. They were talking about turtles with plastic bags round their necks, and that really upset the children.”
The petition has since gathered more than half a million signatures.
“We like to go to eat at Burger King and McDonald’s,” the girls wrote in the petition, “but 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. We want anything they give to us to be sustainable so we can protect the planet for us and for future generations.”
Burger King was actually first to head their demands. In September, it promised to stop offering plastic toys in kid’s meals, iNews reported.