- Following a petition that has nearly 400,000 supporters, McDonald's is looking into ways to reduce plastic used for toys in Happy Meals in the United Kingdom, according to Nation's Restaurant News.
- During the next six months, the fast food chain will test different options such as board games, books and soft toys to better understand customer preferences.
- The chain is working on a solution that aligns with its overall Scale for Good sustainability initiatives.
While McDonald's is exploring alternatives to plastic toys in the U.K., it's yet to commit to any standards in the U.S. and just released new Lion King-themed Happy Meals with plastic toys. But this could change.
Sustainability has grown into a more prominent issue for restaurants over the past few years, with single-use plastics bans sweeping through states and large cities and consumer advocacy on the rise. Brand initiatives are progressing even more rapidly abroad in particular because of the stricter standards in the U.K. and the European Union.
Starbucks, for example, is piloting a reusable cup program in London Gatwick airport where travelers can purchase a paper cup or use and return reusable cups, in addition to launching a $1.3 million Cup Fund to go toward paper cup recycling initiatives in the country.
McDonald's quick response to a consumer petition that picked up momentum this week shows the influence consumers can have on a restaurant's sustainability practices. A 2018 consumer trends report from Asia Pulp & Paper showed that consumers also are willing to pay more for fast food served in sustainable packaging. Yelp plans to add environmental ratings evaluating restaurant's eco-friendly measures alongside its listings. This could create even more consumer spending power if diners avoid places with low sustainability scores. On the corporate side, even investors have started pushing QSRs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and water usage from meat and dairy suppliers.
For the fast food leader, removing plastic toys does align with its overall sustainability goals. It plans to reach 100% fiber-based packaging from certified or recycled sources by 2020. McDonald's Canada is testing "Green Concept" stores that will serve as an incubator for new packaging options and recycling initiatives, such as lids made from wood fiber. It also joined Starbucks as part of the NextGen Consortium and Cup Challenge to come up with a plastic-free to-go cup.