Update, September 19, 2019: Burger King U.K. has pledged to eliminate all plastic toys from its kids’ meals, the BBC reports. It will also set up collection bins for old plastic toys that will then be melted down and repurposed. McDonald’s says it will conduct tests aimed at decreasing plastic use, but has stopped short of eliminating plastic toys altogether.
Update, July 17, 2019: Responding to public pressure, including a Change.org petition launched by two U.K. children, McDonald’s says it will decrease the number of hard plastic toys offered with U.K. Happy Meals. Nation’s Restaurant News reports the change hasn’t yet come to the U.S., where this week McDonald’s rolled out a set of plastic figurines tied to the new Lion King reboot. Overseas, though, McDonald’s U.K. pledges to give away fewer plastic toys in the latter half of the year, replacing them with “a mixture of board games, books and soft toys.”
Original story, July 9, 2019: From The Rainbow Fish to The Lorax, many of the stories we tell kids involve embracing yourself, your ideals, your differences—especially in the face of adversity or derision. We’re trying to teach them fortitude, the strength to stand up for their convictions no matter the consequences. So, in that spirit, society should muster some golf claps for two British children who surely risk becoming kidsa non-grata by launching a petition asking McDonald’s and Burger King to get rid of plastic toys in their kids’ meals.
Their Change.org petition has racked up more than 300,000 signatures, but we hope 7- and 9-year-old Ella and Caitlin are ready for the haters, too. In their petition, they write—presumably via help from adults—that they’ve been learning in school about the environmental cost of plastic: “Children only play with the plastic toys they give us for a few minutes before they get thrown away and harm animals and pollute the sea.”
Whether kids actually toss these plastic toys within minutes or hide them forever in carpeting for parents and babysitters to step on barefoot with painful regularity is up for debate. But what’s less debatable is that disposable plastic is in the social crosshairs these days. Would it be impossible for fast-food chains to introduce kids’ meal toys made from another type of material? Or, better yet, to give kids a toy that’s used up rather than throw away, like crayons or temporary tattoos?
The petition is at the very least a reminder that where we choose to allocate our outrage is selective; why the furor over straws but not Happy Meal toys? Way to call it like you see it, Ella and Caitlin.