The real reason McDonald's Sweden just got rid of its balloons

McDonald's in Sweden is more different than you might expect. The menu at "Donken," as the fast-food restaurant is nicknamed there, has items you won't find in American McDonald's, including the McFalafel and the McVegan burger, with a side of sweet potato fries and truffle dipping sauce (via Insider). Another thing you wouldn't find so much at McDonald's in the U.S. is all the balloons the Swedish chain loved to hand out, for free and for no apparent reason (via Twitter). Balloons had come to symbolize Swedish McDonald's family-friendly atmosphere. But not anymore. In an effort to be more environmentally responsible, McDonald's is dispensing with balloons in the real world but isn't abandoning them entirely. The balloons are now virtual and are featured in a new augmented reality game in the McDonald's app (via Adobo Magazine).

McDonald's Sweden is spreading the news through a new TV commercial, which shows McDonald's customers and employees practically buried in a sea of multicolored balloons — suddenly, they disappear. Then, a young child begins popping virtual balloons in the augmented reality game. "A big little step towards a more sustainable future. Big enough to make a difference," the text in the ad tells us.

McDonald's Sweden is eliminating all disposable plastic by 2022

If around 200 McDonald's restaurants in Sweden stop giving away balloons, then yes, that should be a big enough change to make a difference (via Statista). En24 reports that getting rid of the balloons means introducing nine tons less plastic into the environment, although it wasn't clear if that was per year or over some other time period. Suffice to say that's a lot of plastic.

In McDonald's Sweden's own statement about getting rid of the balloons, the chain gets us up to speed about its broader goal to remove all disposable plastic from its restaurants. This fall, McDonald's Sweden will eliminate another 50 tons of plastic by replacing plastic straws with paper. McDonald's Sweden has already done away with plastic lids on its McFlurrys and salads. All disposable plastic packaging should be eliminated by 2022, according to the company's statement.

McDonald's in Sweden is pretty green, all things considered. Besides reducing plastic, the company is taking a lot of other steps to improve the environment or at least minimize its footprint. According to the McDonald's Sweden website, the chain uses 100 percent renewable energy in its Swedish restaurants. It recycles all its waste and even delivers supplies to restaurants with vehicles that burn renewable fuel.