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QSRs Facing Opposition Over Plastic Toys in Kids Meals


McDonald’s Corporation is faced with a petition which has gathered over 325,000 signatures opposing inclusion of plastic toys in kid’s meals. Burger King has experienced similar complaints and censure from Government agencies in the U.K. including from Environment Minister Therese Coffey.

There is no question that toys in Happy Meals™ have improved sales. The play-value of the toys and figurines, usually following a current movie are however short-lived. In addition to the environmental issue there is a danger of choking and the younger siblings of recipients may ingest small plastic toys that are rapidly discarded after a restaurant visit.

The evident problem relates to recycling. If plastic toys were made of a single material, recycling might be practical as demonstrated in Japan where receptacles placed in stores facilitated collection and recycling of 1.3 million used plastic toys in 2,900 restaurants over a 10-week trial, according to an article in the July 9th edition of The Wall Street Journal.

In 2011, Jack in the Box and Taco Bell in 2013 eliminated toys from kid’s meals although it is evident that a “give-away” is beneficial to sales in a highly-competitive market. Substitution of plastic toys for a more environmentally acceptable alternative such as a coloring-in booklet should be considered.