New Sustainable Happy Meal Toys
September 21, 2021
By Jenny McColloch, Chief Sustainability Officer
For more than four decades, the McDonald’s Happy Meal has lived up to its name, bringing joy to children and families around the globe. We all know the scene of kids tearing open their Happy Meal boxes, ready to eat and eager to play. And part of what makes this experience so special—in addition to the delicious food—is the iconic Happy Meal Toy.
Our customers who love experiencing Happy Meals with the kids in their lives today also care deeply about protecting the environment for this next generation’s future.
That’s why I’m excited to share some exciting news that will mean a lot to the millions of families we serve each day. Today we announced McDonald's ambition to drastically reduce plastics and offer sustainable Happy Meal toys globally by the end of 2025. Transitioning to more renewable, recycled, and certified materials for our Happy Meal toys will result in an approximately 90% reduction in virgin fossil fuel-based plastic use against a 2018 baseline. For comparison, the average person uses more than 220 pounds of plastic annually, so this is equivalent to more than 650,000 individuals eliminating plastics from their lives each year.
Protecting the planet for our shared future demands that we look at all parts of our business, including the customer experience. I’m proud that nothing is off the table for our leadership, partners, and families. Together, we’re expanding our positive impact on the environment through the transformation of one of McDonald’s most beloved icons.
Making changes like this, however, does not come without challenges. The thought on our minds was, how do we improve something that our customers already love around the world, without compromising any of the reasons they love it... and in the case of the Happy Meal, what they love is fun!
Fortunately, our colleagues have been asking themselves that question. Markets like the UK, Ireland and France have rolled out new toys, such as those from blockbuster movie franchises like the sustainably-made Illumination's Minions. Recent Happy Meal toy innovations like these have already resulted in a 30% reduction in virgin fossil fuel-based plastic use since 2018, and now we’re scaling this effort globally to eliminate even more plastics from our system. We're also in early stages of exploring further positive impact beyond the toy. In some places, playgrounds and restaurant trays can be made from recycled toys, like they are in the UK and Japan.
We’ve assembled a team that extends beyond McDonald’s and includes scientists, toy makers and suppliers. And although they are all experts in their own right, they take their inspiration on this project from one important source... kids! We’ve listened to families to understand what works best to keep the fun factor high for their board games, classic superheroes and favorite movie character collectibles.
Together we’ve leveraged all that the Happy Meal stands for to make positive impact for the planet feel more personal and exciting. We’re showing families the cumulative power of their recycling efforts by constructing new playgrounds out of their old possessions. We’re exploring ways to replace the final traces of virgin plastics in inks and laminates. This feels a lot more consequential when it means matching the color scheme of your favorite movie characters, or creating construction materials strong enough to build a towering T-Rex that holds up throughout even the most rambunctious play time. We’re continuing work with our partners to experiment with and invent even more eco-friendly materials. We hope these investments and efforts will support industry-wide solutions as we all take steps to reduce plastic waste and conserve our natural resources.
We’re committed to helping our entire industry reimagine how it operates—one restaurant, one meal, and one toy at a time. And for all the kids and families out there…join us! We can’t wait to shape the future of fun, together.
Learn more about how we're making this change.