Their hugely successful petition has even gotten a response – and a promise – from the fast food giant.
The children aren't happy with their Happy Meals. Concerned about the amount of plastic in the cheap hard toys handed out by McDonalds, and the short length of time that they're typically played with by kids, two little girls from Southampton, England, have launched a petition, asking fast food restaurants to reconsider what they hand out. Caitlin and Ella, ages 7 and 9, wrote on their Change.org page:
The petition coincided with the launch of BBC One's series, 'War on Plastic.' The first episode, according to Environmental Leader, featured a trip to a recycling facility that revealed how impossible toys are to recycle and even showed brand new toys from McDonalds at the facility, still wrapped in plastic.
"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. We want anything they give to us to be sustainable so we can protect the planet for us and for future generations... It’s not enough to make recyclable plastic toys – big, rich companies shouldn’t be making toys out of plastic at all."
So far the petition has gathered an impressive 370,200 signatures (at time of publishing), and McDonalds has noticed. It issued a statement saying it agrees with the girls' petition: "We are committed to reducing plastic across our business, including Happy Meal toys."
This problem isn't limited to McDonalds, or even to fast food restaurants. It's a problem with our kid culture these days. Cheap plastic toys are given out to children everywhere – in party loot bags, birthday presents, prizes at fairs and school events, the treasure box after an appointment at the dentist or optometrist. These toys are low quality, break almost immediately, are impossible to repair, and must go to landfill.
Parents can try their best to talk to kids about the problems with plastic, but it would be great to have some additional support from businesses and event organizers that understand we don't want more plastic gimmicks. Cutting it off at the source is always more effective than dealing with it once it's already in a kid's hands.
McDonalds says it will focus more on books, stuffed animals (also a form of plastic, but usually longer lasting), and board games. Environmental Leader reports that "that change alone will reduce the number of hard plastic toys given away by 60 percent compared to the first half of the year."
Way to go, Caitlin and Ella! We need more kid activists like you. You can sign their petition here.