McDonald's Is Making This Permanent Change to All of Its Happy Meals

Kids' coveted Happy Meals may be looking a bit different soon.

McDonald's has long maintained the top spot as the biggest fast food chain in the U.S., based solely on revenue—and while it'll likely always be home to beloved burgers, fries, and fountain soda, the brand has had to do some evolving over the years to stay at No. 1. That means some menu items have been discontinued (RIP, Mighty Wings), recipes have evolved (hello, preservative-free McNuggets), and new products have been added to the offerings (welcome, McPlant). But now, the company is planning to make a major change to one of its most beloved products: the Happy Meal. Read on to find out what new, permanent change is being made to McDonald's most cherished meal.

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McDonald's is getting rid of some Happy Meal toys.

BANGKOK,THAILAND - JUNE 25,2018 : Rainbow dash, character cartoon from my little pony with Happy meal set on desk ,in soft focus, at McDonald's restaurant
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On Sept. 21, McDonald's pledged to significantly reduce the use of plastic in its Happy Meal toys worldwide. The corporation stated that the changes will start now and roll out around the globe so that all McDonald's toys will be made from more sustainable materials by 2025. This change will result in about a 90-percent reduction of fossil fuel-based plastic in Happy Meals toys, which is about the "size of the entire population of Washington D.C., eliminating plastics from their lives for a year," according to McDonald's.

"Today we're taking a step to keep the fun going while helping to build a more resilient planet for the next generation," the company said in a statement. "Our ambition is that every toy sold in a Happy Meal will be sustainable, made from more renewable, recycled, or certified materials like bio-based and plant-derived materials and certified fiber."

There will be various sustainable toy options available.

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - Jun 18, 2021: Pokemon trading cards you can get with Happy Meal in McDonald's in Hungary
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According to CNN, McDonald's is weighing various options for these more sustainable toys. For instance, instead of plastic figurines, young customers could get 3D paper-based toys they put together on their own. Other toys might include Pokémon trading cards, which are already in the U.S. market, and board games with traditional plastic pieces swapped out for paper ones, which may start appearing in U.S. Happy Meals as soon as Jan. 2022, CNN reports.

"We're drastically reducing plastics in toys while offering all the games, action heroes and collectibles that continue to spark kids' imaginations and love of play," McDonald's said in its statement.

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A 2019 petition against fast food chains' use of plastic toys seemed to put the pressure on McDonald's.

Bangkok, Thailand - Nov 17, 2018 : A photo of Happy Meal set at McDonald's with Pokemon plastic toys launch to promote Pokemon let's go pikachu and Pokemon Let's go Eevee by Nintendo.
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This global initiative follows backlash against McDonald's for its plastic toys. In 2019, British sisters Ella and Caitlin McEwan, then nine and seven years old, started a petition calling on McDonald's and Burger King to stop giving out plastic toys with their kids' meals. The petition garnered more than 566,000 signatures and soon enough, McDonald's began testing out books, board games, and plush toys in U.K. Happy Meals.

However, during a press briefing, Jenny McColloch, McDonald's chef sustainability officer, noted that some of the changes were already in motion before the 2019 petition, according to CNN. "We've had innovation in our toys for quite some time," she said, noting the company "started introducing some of these more sustainable materials" as early as 2018.

She added, "That said, we're always listening to our customers and our families, and understanding where we can do better."

Burger King has also pledged to eliminate non-bioderadable plastic toys by 2025.

February 2020, Swansea UK.
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It's not only McDonald's that's heard the McEwan sisters' plea. In 2019, Burger King vowed to stop giving away plastic toys with children's meals in Britain and pledged to eliminate all non-biodegradable toys from its restaurants worldwide by 2025 as well, according to The New York Times.

The fast food chain also encouraged customers to deposit old toys in collection bins, which it provided to the recycling firm Pentatonic to melt down and turn into playground equipment and reusable tray tables.

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