McDonald’s UK and Ireland to trial ‘swapping out’ Happy Meal toy to reduce plastic


McDonald’s UK and Ireland to trial ‘swapping out’ Happy Meal toy to reduce plastic

18 September 2019 – McDonald’s UK and Ireland is today announcing it will be offering more choice on the Happy Meal, giving customers the option to ‘swap out’ the Happy Meal toy. Next month, in selected restaurants, the business will provide customers with the option to swap the toy for a fruit bag, and in early 2020 will also run a trial of always offering customers a choice between a book and a toy.

The tests come as a the business continues on its journey to reduce plastic – following the recent roll-out of paper straws in restaurants, the removal of McFlurry plastic lids, and the removal of single-use plastic from McDonald’s salads – with all main meal and side salads now served in cardboard containers. Together these changes will reduce plastic waste by 1005 metric tonnes annually.

Paul Pomroy, the CEO of McDonald’s UK and Ireland, said: “We care passionately about the environment, and we have a commitment to reducing plastic across our business – that includes the Happy Meal. We recognise that some people may not want a plastic Happy Meal toy, but we also know that the gifts provide fun for many families and children. That’s why we’ll be running these trials, in order to give our customers a choice; they also can choose not to have a toy or gift at all.

“It’s important we understand what our customers want and we’ll learn a lot from whether they choose a fruit bag or a book over a toy. At the same time, we will be evolving what the toy or gift is – new authors as part of Happy Readers, paper-based toys and board games. We know that our Happy Meal is much loved by our customers so any changes need to be carefully considered.”

In addition to the trials of ‘fruit bag or toy’ and ‘book or toy’, McDonald’s will continue to offer a range of different gifts as part of the Happy Meal – including a paper-based toy at Halloween 2020.

Happy Meal promotions already include board games and books; most recently launching a partnership with the “World Of David Walliams” as part of Happy Readers – offering a free book from the author’s best-selling series ‘The World’s Worst Children.’ Since 2013 McDonald’s has given away 70 million books to British children.

Longer term, McDonald’s will continue to work with suppliers to move towards more sustainably sourced, renewable, recyclable materials for Happy Meal gifts.



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To find out more about McDonald’s sustainability strategy, go to:


McDonald’s takes its environmental responsibilities very seriously. In addition to reducing plastic packaging, McDonald’s is supporting the UK’s ambition to reduce the impact of plastic waste and has become a member of The UK Plastics Pact, which brings together businesses, consumers, local authorities, and NGOs to collectively work to transform the UK’s plastics system.

By 2030, McDonald’s has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 36%, globally, saving 150 million metric tonnes of CO2, and to source all packaging from renewable or recycled sources by 2025.

Our restaurants

  • Smart energy: New restaurants are built with energy efficiency in mind, using smart technology to control lighting, heating, air conditioning.
  • Renewables: We buy 100% renewable electricity and have invested in long term partnership agreements to develop the renewable energy infrastructure in the UK.
  • Litter patrols: UK crew carry out daily litter patrols, with employees walking around 150,000 miles per year to keep the streets clean.

Our food

  • Biofuel: 5,000 tonnes of food waste (coffee grounds) per year converted into renewable energy.

Our packaging

Today’s announcement builds on existing developments across our packaging, now including:

  • Straws: Rolling out paper straws across our entire estate, following successful trials in 2018; straws can now be recycled with the paper cups
  • Coffee cup recycling: Developed a process with suppliers James Cropper and Veolia to ensure that coffee cups can be recycled. There are recycling units in all Experience of the Future restaurants.
  • McFlurry cup recycling: McFlurry cups can be recycled along with other paper cups in one of the many recycling points that has been established across the country through the collaboration of retailers including Pret a Manger, Costa and McDonald’s restaurants.
  • Salad box recycling: Empty salad boxes can be recycled with any other paper.
  • Packaging recycling: 22k tonnes of outer packaging cardboard is recycled from restaurants every year - zero waste to landfill.
  • Plastic: Only 8% of the packaging used for McDonald’s products is made from plastic, with the majority already being made from fully certified fibre.

Our supply chain

  • Biodiesel: For over a decade our delivery fleet has been powered by recycled biodiesel from cooking oil, saving nearly seven thousand tonnes of CO2 emissions every year.

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