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As the mom of a 5-year-old, my home is plagued by low-cost plastic McDonald’s Happy Meal toys that can quickly find yourself within the trash. The story hasn’t modified a lot since my very own childhood three a long time in the past. But it doesn’t need to be this fashion.

A designer in Malaysia has reimagined and prototyped a Happy Meal so it’s made totally from eco-friendly supplies, together with the toy, which is constructed from wooden. And removed from being uninteresting and boring, this Happy Meal is stuffed with lovely illustrations and enjoyable, interactive parts. The mission begs the query: Why isn’t McDonald’s transitioning to a planet-positive Happy Meal like this one?

[Photo: courtesy Regina Lim]

McDonald’s says it’s making efforts to make its Happy Meals greener. In September, it introduced that it will cut back fossil fuel-based plastic in its Happy Meal toys by 90% by 2025 (in comparison with a 2018 baseline). However, it would proceed to make these toys out of both recycled plastic or plastic sourced from renewable supplies like corn–neither of which is biodegradable. So when these toys are inevitably tossed within the trash, they nonetheless find yourself within the landfill or ocean, the place they don’t decompose, however break down into smaller and smaller fragments. These micro-plastics find yourself within the meals chain, poisoning animals and people. This is a gigantic environmental downside when you think about that McDonald’s sells greater than a billion toys a 12 months worldwide.

[Photo: courtesy Regina Lim]

Regina Lim, a designer in Malaysia, determined to not look ahead to McDonald’s. As she was designing her field, she was impressed by the forests of East Malaysia the place she grew up. The field, together with the packaging for McNuggets, fries, and drinks, all function pleasant, colourful photographs of wildlife. While that is only a prototype, Lim says ideally McDonald’s would manufacture the paper merchandise from recycled paper, even perhaps embedded with wildflower seeds.

The toy inside is a trio of picket bushes; there are additionally cardboard cutouts of a giraffe, elephant, and zebra, which the kid can assemble into 3D animals. As a remaining flourish, the field itself unfolds to disclose a narrative about how seeds develop into bushes. “My parents took me out into nature as a child, and I thought it was important to teach the next generation to appreciate these spaces, which are dying off,” she tells me. “But I think it’s possible to teach kids about sustainability in a fun way.” Going ahead, Lim imagines McDonald’s creating packing containers that spotlight the corporate’s completely different sustainability efforts, like sourcing beef and supporting younger activists.

McDonald’s didn’t remark particularly on Lim’s design. But after we reached out, the corporate mentioned it was rethinking many points of the toy’s design, together with how you can create extra sturdy toys that children will wish to play with for a very long time. When it involves the supplies in these toys, the corporate mentioned that waste and recycling infrastructure varies considerably in every market. McDonald’s mentioned it’s exploring how you can create Happy Meal toys out of supplies that may be recovered in these methods, akin to decreasing the variety of supplies in every toy.

[Photo: courtesy Regina Lim]

For now, the corporate mentioned it’s dedicated to utilizing plastics from renewable and recycled sources partly to create demand for these plastics. (It’s price noting that some environmental consultants say that recycled plastic is problematic as a result of it additionally creates demand for virgin plastic, successfully supporting the fossil gasoline business.)

[Photo: courtesy Regina Lim]

Lim says she was impressed to tackle this mission as a result of she’s noticed how huge chains like McDonalds have been beneath fireplace from shoppers for his or her poor observe document on the surroundings. “Fast food chains have been criticized when it comes to sustainability, and the problem is only getting worse,” she says. “At the same time, if big companies like McDonalds can make small changes, it can make a big difference because of the impact and influence they have.”

[Photo: courtesy Regina Lim]

As she designed this field, she paid consideration to a few of these small tweaks that will be straightforward for McDonald’s to make. For occasion, the long-lasting Happy Meal field has a transparent design flaw: It doesn’t match a small soda, one of many drink choices. As a outcome, the drink is commonly packaged in a separate bag or drink holder. So Lim redesigned the field to make sure you don’t want any extraneous packaging, whereas maintaining the aesthetics of the field immediately recognizable.

[Photo: courtesy Regina Lim]

Lim acknowledges that even when McDonald’s manufactured picket toys at scale, it’s unlikely they’d be as low-cost as plastic, which is likely one of the cheaper supplies available on the market. (That mentioned, in France, McDonald’s eradicated plastic toys from Happy Meals earlier this 12 months, in favor of paper-based toys like buying and selling playing cards and coloring books; McDonald’s doesn’t have plans to roll out an identical program within the U.S.)

Still, from a enterprise perspective, Lim argues {that a} small price enhance is likely to be worthwhile for McDonald’s. “It makes sense for McDonald’s to pour some of its profits into making its Happy Meal much more sustainably,” she says. “It would also help McDonald’s counter all of the criticism it is facing and build its brand image.”




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