On Tuesday, McDonald’s announced its ambition that by the end of 2025, every toy, in every Happy Meal sold around the world, will be more sustainable. As ever, the smiles, fun and safety associated with Happy Meal toys over the past 40 years remain. This transition to more renewable, recycled or certified materials for toys is already underway and will result in an approximately 90 percent reduction in virgin fossil fuel based plastic use against a 2018 baseline –nearly equivalent to the population of Washington, DC, eliminating plastics from their lives for a year. Since 2018, Happy Meal toy innovations already underway in markets around the world such as the UK, Ireland and France have already resulted in a 30percent reduction in virgin fossil fuel based plastic use.
“Our next generation of customers care deeply about protecting the planet and what we can do to help make our business more sustainable. We’re always exploring where we can drive greater impact, including the transformation of beloved icons like the Happy Meal,” says Jenny McColloch, McDonald’s chief sustainability officer. “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.”
Since launching in 1979, the Happy Meal has undergone unique menu, ingredient and play innovations. Today’s announcement is the first global environmental sustainability milestone for the chain's toys.
As with previous transformations, fun remains at the forefront and some of McDonald’s biggest entertainment partners are part of the journey. “Creating magical moments for kids in a way that helps protect the planet for their future has inspired some incredible new thinking, like the incredibly popular Space Jam: A New Legacy Happy Meal Happy Meal in the UK,” adds Louise Soper, SVP Global Brand Partnerships at Warner Bros. Pictures. “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.”
New Happy Meal toys will continue to enable interactive play with games the whole family can enjoy, customizable crafts to unleash imagination, and build-your-own construction to instill a sense of pride in playtime. The global transition is already underway in countries including the UK and Ireland, and complete in France, where Happy Meal toys made from innovative materials are already elements of the experience. In some cases, fan-favorite movie characters that used to be plastic figurines may reappear as 3D figures that can be built and decorated so Batman can still compete for control over Gotham City as he had before, and Illumination's Minions can still create mischief and mayhem. In other instances, like board games, virgin fossil fuel based plastic game pieces may be swapped out in favor of accessories made from certified plant-derived or recycled materials. Beyond composition of the toys, the business has also explored recycling old toys into new restaurant trays, and replacing plastic wrappers on the toys with new plant-based and premium certified fiber packaging.
"Sustainable material sourcing is a necessary strategy for mitigating the impact of supply chains on our ecosystems and climate, including the plastic waste crisis,” says Sheila Bonini, Senior Vice President, Private Sector Engagement at World Wildlife Fund. “By reducing conventional virgin plastic inputs by a projected 90 percent, the re-imagined toys will reduce the demand on fossil fuel plastic production to instead create new markets for responsibly sourced renewable and recycled content. And through its immense reach of these toys, McDonald's can engage its millions of daily customers around the world in the transition to a more sustainable, circular future."
This journey doesn’t end in 2025. McDonald’s is actively working with partners across the industry to innovate renewable materials that meet our play and safety standards, and can help remove the remaining conventional plastics within the toy portfolio.
The shift toward more sustainable Happy Meal toys is the latest step McDonald’s is taking to help keep waste out of nature, conserve forests and ecosystems, and drive climate action. Notably, McDonald’s was the first global restaurant company to set a science-based target to significantly reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Today, McDonald’s is on track to meet its 2030 targets, achieving an 8.5 percent reduction in the absolute emissions of our restaurants and offices (toward 36 percent reduction goal) and a nearly 6 percent reduction in supply chain emissions intensity (toward 31 percent reduction) from 2015 baselines.
Additionally, by the end of 2020, McDonald’s was approximately 80 percent of the way to its goal to source all guest packaging from renewable, recyclable or certified sources by 2025. Progress has been propelled by investments in renewable energy and the company's substantial achievement of its 2020 Responsible Sourcing Goals across beef, soy, coffee, fish, palm oil, packaging fiber and forests. Together, these results showcase the collective power of cross-industry collaboration from McDonald’s suppliers, producers, and franchisees.