When my children were kindergarten age, they would love going to eat at a fast food restaurant. Their excitement didn’t stem from the small playground that was built into the place. The thrill came from getting the plastic toys that came with their kids’ meals.
Their play room at home became littered with these things that they only played with for a day or two. These toys would eventually end up being tossed out during our next spring or fall cleaning.
The New York Times has recently reported that Burger King will stop giving away plastic toys in its kids’ meals in Britain because of the growing concern over single-use plastic. The fast food giant is also asking customers to deposit old toys into collection bins.
David Yaffe-Bellany writes for the Times, “In December, the recycling firm Pentatonic will melt those orphaned action figures, then turn the raw material into playground equipment and reusable tray tables. Burger King plans to eliminate non-biodegradable toys from all its restaurants worldwide by 2025. ‘That might be a shame for a tiny minority of people,’ said Alasdair Murdoch, the chief executive of Burger King in the United Kingdom. ‘But it’s very clear that long term, people think that we’re doing the right thing.’”
You might be asking, “What about McDonald’s?” It seems McDonald’s is scaling back the distribution of plastic toys but isn’t committing to discontinuing them. The chain has begun offering customers in Britain a choice between a bag of fruit or a toy. What kid is going to choose a bag of fruit?
Of course, this fast food plastic toy business is just a small drop in a very large bucket. But the environmental concerns are getting more traction than worries over childhood obesity.
I’m looking at the moves optimistically, hoping that the decisions these big corporations are making in regards to their uses of plastic will set an example for other corporations.
If and/or when the flow of plastic toys from fast food chains comes to a halt, I would encourage kids and parents to not throw them away. In time, those little toys could become collectors’ items.