The real reason some Burger Kings got rid of kids' meal toys

The National Resources Defense Council states that single-use plastics are one of the worst offenders when it comes to the world's production of waste. Items like candy wrappers, plastic bags, and straws are difficult to recycle, which helps contribute to the fact that 91 percent of all plastic ends up in a landfill instead of being reused. On their own, plastic never fully breaks down and instead just creates smaller and smaller pieces of plastic, known as microplastics, which are unintentionally consumed by wildlife. These microplastics either end up in our bodies when we in turn eat the animals, or eventually build up to such a degree that they cause health issues like punctured organs and intestinal blockage in wildlife, frequently resulting in death.

To combat this huge environmental problem, two young girls from England began a Change.org petition to ask fast food chains Burger King and McDonald's to stop giving out plastic toys with children's meals. Over 500,000 people signed the online petition, which Reuters reports caused Burger King to rethink the environmental impact made by their kids meal toys. The company stated that they estimate that ending the practice of giving out plastic toys in their children's meals in the United Kingdom will save 320 metric tonnes of single-use plastic per year.

Fast food chains are attempting to cut down on plastic waste by eliminating toys from kids meals

In a statement made to Reuters, Burger King U.K. chief executive Alasdair Murdoch stated that the company was very concerned with their plastic consumption. Eliminating the toys is just one step in its initiative to reduce all packaging and waste. The chain has also installed "amnesty bins" in their U.K. stores for customers to donate any single-use plastic toys. They are accepting not only plastic toys given out by the company, but also any toys given by competitors or found in cereal boxes. The chain plans to use these toys to create new play areas and trays in their restaurants.

McDonald's responded to the petition by offering customers in some of the chain's locations in Britain and Ireland to swap the toy for a fruit bag upon request, and promised to begin offering books instead of plastic toys in 2020. The outlet also says that McDonald's has reduced its plastic use by switching to paper straws and eliminating plastic lids from McFlurry desserts and salads.

As of 2019, this toy-free Burger King initiative had not made its way to the United States.