McDonald’s gives Happy Meal toys a sustainable makeover in climate push

Selina Johansson

McDonald’s (MCD) is planning to give its iconic Happy Meal toys a major makeover, as big companies push to make their operations more environmentally friendly in the face of climate change.

On Tuesday, the Golden Arches announced its plans to make every toy around the world more sustainable by 2025. In order to do so, McDonald’s is working closely with its supply chain to use renewable, recycled or certified materials. 

If realized, the fast-food giant estimates it will result in a 90% reduction in virgin plastic — or new material created from oil instead of being recycled — within the next 4 years. 

At McDonald’s locations in the U.K. and Ireland, Happy Meal toys are already transitioning into more sustainable materials, while in France the switch is already complete. In these countries combined, the company says it has seen a 30% reduction in virgin plastic since 2018. 

Jenny McColloch, McDonald’s Chief Sustainability Officer, said in a statement that the transition is in line with the next generation of consumers who “care deeply about protecting the planet and what we can do to help make our business more sustainable.” 

McDonald’s Happy Meals with new games, designs

What exactly can consumers expect from the newly updated Happy Meal boxes?

The company aims to keep the “fun” in every Happy Meal toy, by working with not only suppliers, but families, play experts and engineers to innovate designs. 

However, McDonald’s also has plans to create interactive games that may win over adults, in addition to customizable crafts and build-your-own construction projects. 

Picking up a McDonald’s Happy Meal at the drive-through. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

This includes “fan-favorites” like Batman that previously came as a plastic figurine, but may now reappear as a three-dimensional (3D) figure that consumers can build themself; or a re-emergence of the “Minions” characters in an interactive, customizable format. Kids can add eyes, pants and hair themselves, along with stickers to make each one unique. 

McDonald’s is also exploring ways to recycle old toys to create new restaurant trays, and replace plastic wrappers on the toys with new-plant based and fiber packaging. Currently, nearly 100% of fiber-based guest packaging at McDonald’s — including paper bags, food wrappers, napkins and cup carriers — are made from recycled or certified sources. 

And while nothing will beat some of the biggest hit items since the start of the Happy Meal in 1979, including the Teenie Beanie Babies and Mini Furbies, McDonald’s is banking on customer enthusiasm for Happy Meals remaining strong. 

Louise Soper, Warner Bros. Pictures SVP of global brand partnerships, weighed in on the initiative. “We applaud McDonald’s push for more sustainable toys around the globe and we’re actively imagining what the next batch of your family’s favorite characters will look like in a way that’s just as fun and even better for the environment,” she said in a release.

Brooke DiPalma is a producer and reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter at @BrookeDiPalma or email her at [email protected]

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