Fast food giants might be making headway when it comes to ditching plastic packaging – but two young girls from Southampton noted one glaringly obvious way they could do better.
Ella McEwan, 9, and little sister Caitlin, 7, are petitioning for Burger King and McDonald’s to think of the environment and stop giving plastic toys out with every kid’s meal.
The pair decided to take action after learning about the environment and the impact of plastic on nature at school. “It made us very sad to see how plastic harms wildlife and pollutes the ocean, and we want to change this,” reads the description for the petition, which had more than 167,000 signatures at the time of writing.
“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 pint-sized plastic campaigners will appear on tonight’s episode of War On Plastic with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Anita Rani.
Discussing the millions of toys which are thrown away each year, the McEwan family said: “We want anything they give to us to be sustainable so we can protect the planet for us and for future generations.”
Their aim is to get 200,000 signatures in total – so they’re not far off. “It’s not enough to make recyclable plastic toys,” the family said. “Big, rich companies shouldn’t be making toys out of plastic at all.”
In response to the petition, a spokesperson for Burger King told HuffPost UK it is currently trialling the removal of toys in meals in a select number of locations in the Midlands. “In tandem we are also working on the development of more sustainable packaging and alternative toy solutions as we still very much want our younger customers to enjoy their King Juniors,” they said.
“We plan to do initial market testing with these new solutions in October this year, with our goal being to have a permanent, more sustainable solution in place by 2020. In the meantime, we’d like to applaud Ella and Caitlin for their initiative and look forward to providing further updates as we progress.”
A McDonald’s spokesperson said the company is committed to reducing plastic across the business, including in Happy Meal toys. “We know that our Happy Meal toys provide fun for children playing in our restaurants, but also provide many more fun filled hours at home too,” they 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 carefully thought about.”
Over the next six months Happy Meals will include a mixture of board games, books and soft toys. The company estimates it will see an almost 60% reduction in the number of hard plastic toys given away in comparison to the first half of the year.
The final instalment of War On Plastic also reveals how supermarkets are responsible for a third of the plastic packaging that we buy in the UK, but are offering very limited choices for customers who want to shop less single-use plastic.
Airing on BBC One at 9pm, it’s also calling on people across the country to join the #OurPlasticFeedback conversation online and take their plastic back to the supermarkets to encourage them to think about how they package their food and sell it.
HuffPost UK has contacted McDonald’s and Burger King regarding the petition and is waiting to hear back.