Happy Meals, Happy Planet

McDonald’s Corp. sells more than a billion Happy Meals per year, and each comes with a toy. This week, the burger giant announced its new goal to reduce virgin fossil-fuel plastics in its Happy Meal toys by 90 percent within the next five years.

Jenny McColloch, McDonald’s chief sustainability officer, said McDonald’s goal was to reduce plastics and offer sustainable toys globally by the end of 2025.

This transition would result in a 90 percent reduction in virgin fossil fuel-based plastic use. The average person uses more than 100kg of plastic a year, so this would be equivalent to more than 650,000 individuals not using plastic.

McDonald’s restaurants in France, Ireland and the UK are already deploying sustainable toys in their Happy Meals.

Vice president of global marketing enablement at McDonald’s, Amy Murray, said customer feedback had expressed concern about sustainability.

Consumers were worried about the planet, animals, and climate change, she said, and McDonald’s wanted to make changes to grow and remain relevant to its customers. The McDonald’s Happy Meal, introduced in 1979, has seen some of its toys become extremely popular and part of the cultural fabric, such as Ty Inc.’s Teenie Beanie Babies.

New toys might include paper dinosaurs that could be constructed, or toys made from recycled or fibrous plant materials.

McColloch said there would be flexibility with toy innovations as McDonald’s moves towards its goal.

Materials would be a mix of fibre-based materials, but also renewable plastics and plant-based plastics. She said they were not putting a limit on the ratio of sustainable materials but would work towards reducing the amount of fossil-fuel plastic by over 90 percent by 2025.