McDonald's Has Pledged to Reduce Plastic Use in Happy Meal Toys by 2025

The fast food company plans to rely on recyclable and renewable materials.

Published Sep 23, 2021

 (Judgefloro/Wikimedia Commons)
Image Via Judgefloro/Wikimedia Commons

McDonald’s, the burger giant behind the Happy Meals that have been a kid's meal mainstay for decades, says it is changing up some key elements of its famed meals. According to a statement, the company plans to “drastically” reduce plastic use in all of its Happy Meal toys by 2025, and convert to renewable or recyclable products.

On Sept. 21, 2021, the company released the following statement:

Today McDonald’s announced its ambition that by the end of 2025, every toy, in every Happy Meal sold around the world, will be more sustainable. As ever, the smiles, fun and safety associated with Happy Meal toys over the past 40 years remain. This transition to more renewable, recycled or certified materials for toys is already underway and will result in an approximately 90% reduction in virgin fossil fuel based plastic use against a 2018 baseline – nearly equivalent to the population of Washington, DC, eliminating plastics from their lives for a year. Since 2018, Happy Meal toy innovations already underway in markets around the world such as the UK, Ireland and France have already resulted in a 30% reduction in virgin fossil fuel based plastic use.

However, experts say the move won’t make a real difference to the environment. Sharon Seah, a climate change researcher, told Insider, "Given that McDonald's is one of the world's largest franchising brands, more can be done in terms of other operations, like reducing their carbon footprint while moving products across supply chains.” She also suggested they offer more vegan options, or plant-based meat, to offset beef consumption.

Indeed, beef production is a major source of the company's carbon footprint, something the chain has acknowledged before. Meanwhile, the Center for Biological Diversity called on the company to do more:

McDonalds’ latest toy promotion with Walt Disney World also includes a large number of plastic toys.


McDonald’s Is Drastically Reducing Plastics in Happy Meal Toys Around the Globe. 21 Sept. 2021, Accessed 23 Sept. 2021.

McDonald’s Plans to “Drastically” Reduce Plastic Toys in Its Happy Meals by 2025. Accessed 23 Sept. 2021.

Teh, Cheryl. “McDonald’s Pledged to Phase out Its Plastic Happy Meal Toys, but Environmental Experts Say the Company’s Real Problem Is Its Use of Beef.” Insider, Accessed 23 Sept. 2021.

Using Our Scale for Good: Taking Big Steps to Reduce Our Carbon Footprint. Accessed 23 Sept. 2021.

Nur Nasreen Ibrahim is a reporter with experience working in television, international news coverage, fact checking, and creative writing.