From today, all plastic toys offered in children’s meals at UK branches of Burger King will be removed.
The restaurant estimates this will save approximately 320 tonnes of plastic waste a year.
From next month, McDonald’s customers can swap the plastic toys given in children’s Happy Meals for a fruit bag, and from next year, for a book.
Around 1.2 billion McDonald's Happy Meals are sold across the globe every year.
Burger King admitted the company was “spurred on” to remove plastic toys from its children’s meals following the launch of an online petition by a couple of schoolgirls.
Just under a year ago, sisters Ella and Caitlin McEwan launched a petition on Change.org to get McDonald’s and Burger King to “think of the environment” and stop giving children with plastic toys.
“We like to go to eat at Burger King and McDonald’s, but 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,” the nine-year-old and the seven-year-old wrote in the petition.
The campaign has since garnered more than half a million signatures, with a target of reaching a million.
Alasdair Murdoch, chief executive of Burger King UK, said the removal of plastic children’s toys from its restaurants is a “step in the right direction”.
“If it makes other competitors move their practices forward, that can only be a good thing,” Mr Murdoch said.
Burger King is also installing “amnesty bins” in all of its UK restaurants, where people can drop off any old plastic meal toys.
They will then be used to create new play areas or items inside the restaurants, such as interactive trays.
Fernando Machado, global chief marketing officer at Burger King, said the UK franchise is “leading the way” in the restaurant’s “wider commitment on reducing plastics”.
“Work is currently underway across all of our markets to look at how we can completely move away from non-biodegradable plastic toys by 2025,” he said.
Paul Pomroy, chief executive of McDonald’s UK and Ireland, said that while the company acknowledges not everyone wants to receive a plastic toy in a children’s Happy Meal, the “gifts provide fun” for some.
“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,” Mr Pomroy said.
“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.”
Pomroy added that as the McDonald’s children’s Happy Meal is “much loved” by customers, “any changes need to be carefully considered”.
Earlier this year, it was announced McDonald’s would be removing McFlurry lids and single-use plastic salad bowls from its restaurants.
The fast food giant has committed to ensuring all its packaging comes from renewable or recycled sources by 2025.
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