McDonald’s pledges to remove non-sustainable hard plastic from its iconic Happy Meal


McDonald’s pledges to remove non-sustainable hard plastic from its iconic Happy Meal

·       From 2021, every Happy Meal in the UK and Ireland will include either a soft toy, paper-based  toy or book.

·       These commitments will remove over 3,000 metric tons of plastic from the business from 2021, the largest reduction by McDonald’s to date.

·       The moves are the latest in a series of efforts to improve the company’s impact on the environment

McDonald’s UK and Ireland will no longer include toys made from non-recycled or non-renewable forms of hard plastic in its iconic Happy Meal. In 2021, the Happy Meal will only include soft toys, sustainable paper-based gifts or books as the company works to find sustainable alternatives to hard plastic.

This represents the biggest reduction in plastic by McDonald’s UK and Ireland to date and is the next step in its mission to reduce its environmental impact across all areas of the business. The move will eliminate over 3,000 metric tons of non-sustainable plastic, whilst continuing to give McDonald’s customers the Happy Meal they know and love.

Between now and 2021, McDonald’s is doing everything it can to trial, test and learn from several new sustainability initiatives, to give customers the confidence that their Happy Meal is as sustainable as possible:

1.        From March 2020, in a first for the UK business, McDonald’s will trial paper packaging for any Happy Meal toy. The paper packaging will also be introduced for Happy Meal books from August, removing the plastic wrapping entirely from 2021 and a further 200 tonnes of plastic.

2.       From May 2020, McDonald’s will offer everyone the choice of either a book or a toy with every Happy Meal in the UK and Ireland. This gives families the choice to opt out of a plastic gift in every restaurant. This initiative builds on the successful Happy Readers promotion which has distributed over 90 million books with the Happy Meal in the last seven years.

3.       From May 2020, McDonald’s will run a five-week nationwide toy amnesty, collecting any unwanted plastic toys in its 1,350 restaurants and recycling the returned plastic into play equipment for Ronald McDonald House Charities across the UK and Ireland.

Gareth Helm, Senior Vice President, Chief Marketing Officer, UK & Ireland said:“We care passionately about the environment and are committed to reducing plastic across our business including within our Happy Meal. Families have high expectations of us and we’re working as hard as we can to give them the confidence that their Happy Meal is as sustainable as possible. Getting that right is a big responsibility, but we believe the changes we’re making today have the potential to make a big difference.

“We want to use our reach and influence to bring customers with us on the journey towards more sustainable living. Today’s announcement reflects our mission to continue to trial, test and learn from innovative sustainable solutions. Most importantly, we’re committed to listening to our customers and working with our suppliers to ensure we are taking every possible opportunity to provide quality food sourced, made, packaged and enjoyed responsibly.”

Keith Kenny, VP, McDonald’s Global Sustainability commented: “Globally, McDonald’s is committed to sustainable sourcing and to exploring the production of more sustainable Happy Meal Toys that continue to delight customers and families. We are excited to use learnings from these initiatives in the UK and Ireland and other market sustainability programs to inform our global approach.”


Notes to editors

Media enquiries:

McDonald’s press office – 020 3892 1000 /

Teneo – 020 7260 2700 /  

About McDonald’s UK & Ireland:

McDonald’s currently operates over 1,350 restaurants across the UK and Ireland, serving just under 4 million customers every day, employing over 130,000 people.

This initiative is part of McDonald’s Scale for Good commitment to sustainability.  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.

All the energy McDonald’s buys to run its restaurants comes from renewable wind and solar power.

McDonald’s has installed over 120,000 LED lights in restaurants across the UK, which use 50% less energy than fluorescent lights. New restaurants are built with energy efficiency in mind, using smart technology to control lighting, heating, air conditioning.  McDonald’s has also invested in long term partnership agreements to develop the renewable energy infrastructure in the UK.

In the last 12 months, McDonald’s UK&I has taken a number of steps to ensure we continue to lead when it comes to sustainable packaging and further address the issue of reducing plastic across our supply chain:

·       Plastic: Now only 8% of the packaging used for McDonald’s products is made from plastic, with the majority already being made from fully certified fibre.

·       McFlurry Lids – the removal of plastic lids from our McFlurry will see 385 tonnes of plastic removed from our supply chain each year.

·       Salad boxes – the move to fibre based salad boxes last year will also see 105 tonnes of plastic removed annually, and the new salad boxes can be recycled with any other paper.

·       Straws: Last year we rolled out paper straws across our entire estate - which can now be recycled with our 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 Starbucks.

·       Packaging recycling: 22,000 tonnes of outer packaging cardboard is recycled from restaurants every year.

·       Cutlery: We have been reviewing alternatives to plastic, and will begin trials of alternatives in the coming months

·       Straws: We’ve worked hard with our suppliers to ensure our straws can now be recycled with our cups

About Ronald McDonald House Charities:

Ronald McDonald House Charities is the chosen corporate charity partner of McDonald’s UK & Ireland, with fundraising efforts from the company, its franchisees and customers providing millions of pounds of valuable funds for the charity over the last 30 years.

Ronald McDonald Houses provide free ‘home away from home’ accommodation for families so they can be moments away from their child in hospital, for as long as they need it.

Ronald McDonald House Charities UK is an independent charity founded in 1989 and in this time has supported nearly 50,000 families.

This initiative will see play equipment made from recycled plastic toys installed on the premises of the Houses across the UK and Ireland.


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