Two young sisters in the United Kingdom are asking McDonald’s and Burger King to stop giving away plastic toys with fast food. Their Change.org petition has accumulated more than 340,000 signatures, and McDonald’s UK published a response.
Ella McEwan, nine, and her sister Caitlin, seven, live in Southampton and told journalists that they started the petition after learning at school about how plastic trash endangers sea life, the Mirror reported.
“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,” their petition says. “We want anything they give to us to be sustainable so we can protect the planet for us and for future generations.”
After the girls launched the petition, BBC One began airing the series War on Plastic. In one episode, co-host Anita Rani visits a recycling facility in East London, where she learns that toys are one of the biggest problems because the facility can’t recycle them. Looking at a towering mound of toys pulled from the line over the past 24 hours, Rani spots numerous free toys from McDonald’s, including one still in protective wrap.
McDonald’s UK tweeted an apology and issued a public statement.
“We absolutely agree with Ella and Caitlin in recognizing that the reduction and use of plastics is an important issue, and we are committed to reducing plastic across our business, including Happy Meal toys,” the company said. “The joy that many families get from our Happy Meal toys isn’t something that we can ignore and any changes to that have to be planned through carefully.”
Over the next six months, McDonald’s UK says their Happy Meal promotions will include board games, books, and soft toys. The company estimates that change alone will reduce the number of hard plastic toys given away by 60% compared to the first half of the year.
Last year McDonald’s announced plans to transition away from plastic straws starting in the UK and Ireland. The fast food chain is also a member of the NextGen Cup Consortium and Challenge. In June, McDonald’s Canada launched two concept restaurants for testing new cutlery and food packaging made from sustainable sources.