Burger King and McDonalds phase out plastic toys in UK green push

Oscar Williams-Grut
·Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Two McDonald's Happy Meal with toy watches fashioned after the characters Donkey and Puss in Boots from the movie "Shrek Forever After" are pictured in Los Angeles June 22, 2010. A U.S. consumer group wants McDonald's Corp to stop using Happy Meal toys to lure children into its restaurants and has threatened to sue if the world's biggest hamburger chain does not comply within 30 days. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni (UNITED STATES - Tags: FOOD CRIME LAW BUSINESS)
Two McDonald's Happy Meal with toy watches. Photo: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Free toys with kids meals at fast food chains have been commonplace around the world for decades — but the practice is coming to an end amid pressure from campaigners.

Fast food giants Burger King and McDonalds (MCD) have announced plans to reduce plastic toys as part of efforts to cut environmentally damaging waste.

Burger King is removing all plastic toys from its UK children’s meals from Thursday.

McDonalds said in a separate announcement that it would give customers the option of swapping out the Happy Meal toy for a book or a bag of fruit.

The changes follow a popular online petition urging the fast food giants to reduce plastic waste.

A Change.org petition set up by Southampton sisters Ella and Caitlin McEwan urged Burger King and McDonald’s to “think of the environment and stop giving plastic toys with their kids’ meals”. It has attracted half a million signatures.

“We’re making a start,” Burger King UK chief executive Alasdair Murdoch said. “This is a step in the right direction.”

Burger King said the move will save an estimated 320 tonnes of waste annually. The chain is also urging customers to bring in old toys to be melted down and re-used for things like trays or kids play areas.

McDonald’s UK and Ireland chief executive Paul Pomroy said: “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.”

Last year McDonalds announced it was replacing its plastic straws with paper ones in a bid to reduce waste. However, it emerged in August that the straws could not be recycled in the UK.