From Snoopy and Power Rangers to Hot Wheels and Pokemon, McDonald's has long provided a jolt of joy with its kid-friendly toys inside the iconic Happy Meal. Now, the Golden Arches is making an earth-friendly move toward using sustainable materials in an effort to reduce plastic.
In the midst of Climate Week 2021, McDonald’s announced its goal that by the end of 2025, every toy in every Happy Meal sold around the world will be more sustainable and reduce conventional plastic by 90%, thus lowering demand on fossil fuel plastic production.
"Our next generation of customers care deeply about protecting the planet and what we can do to help make our business more sustainable," Jenny McColloch, McDonald’s chief sustainability officer said in a statement. "With this transition for our toys, we’re working closely with suppliers, families and play experts and engineers to introduce more sustainable, innovative designs and help drive demand for recycled materials, to keep McDonald’s communities and beyond smiling for generations to come."
McDonald's said some of its toys such as "fan-favorite movie characters that used to be plastic figurines may reappear as 3D figures that can be built and decorated." Other products such as mini board games with virgin fossil fuel-based plastic game pieces "may be swapped out in favor of accessories made from certified plant-derived or recycled materials."
The transition to making toys with more renewable, recycled or certified materials will result in an approximately 90% reduction in virgin fossil fuel-based plastic use, which is nearly equal to the population of Washington, D.C., eliminating plastics from their lives for a year.
The fast food chain's Happy Meal toy innovation efforts have been in motion since 2018 in other global markets including the U.K., Ireland and France, which McDonald's said has reduced virgin fossil fuel-based plastic by 30%.
"Sustainable material sourcing is a necessary strategy for mitigating the impact of supply chains on our ecosystems and climate, including the plastic waste crisis," said Sheila Bonini, the senior vice president of private sector engagement at World Wildlife Fund.
The lower demand for fossil fuel plastic will "instead create new markets for responsibly sourced renewable and recycled content," Bonini said. "McDonald's can engage its millions of daily customers around the world in the transition to a more sustainable, circular future."
The company will continue to work with other industry partners to innovate renewable materials that meet both play and safety standards and can help remove the remaining conventional plastics within the toy portfolio.
McDonald's was the first global restaurant company to set a science-based target to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Today, McDonald’s said it is on track to meet its 2030 targets, achieving an 8.5% reduction in the absolute emissions of restaurants and offices and a nearly 6% reduction in supply chain emissions intensity, compared to 2015.
The California-founded fast food restaurant also noted in Tuesday's press release that "by the end of 2020, McDonald’s was approximately 80% of the way to its goal to source all guest packaging from renewable, recyclable or certified sources by 2025."
McDonald's credited the achievements this year to cross-industry collaboration from suppliers, producers and franchisees as well as investments in renewable energy and its 2020 Responsible Sourcing Goals across beef, soy, coffee, fish, palm oil, packaging fiber and forests.