McDonald’s launches toy recycling trial

By Josie Clarke, PA Consumer Correspondent

McDonald’s is to trial collection bins for unwanted plastic toys to be recycled into new products such as coffee cups and play equipment.

The fast food giant will collect any plastic toys – from its own Happy Meals and those bought from other retailers – as long as they fit through the 17cm diameter entrance to the bins.

The initial trial will run for four weeks in seven restaurants in the UK and Ireland: Bramley Road, St Ives, East Kilbride – Queensway Drive Thru, Kingston, Milton Keynes, Cherry Tree Road, Blackpool, Culverhouse Cross, Cardiff, Roscrea, Ireland, and The Swan Centre, Eastleigh.

A reusable cup made from recycled toys. (McDonald’s/PA)

The toys will be recycled into new products from coffee cups to bins, outdoor play equipment and vegetable planters to be gifted to communities.

Helen McFarlane, sustainability manager at McDonald’s UK & Ireland, said: “It is really important we test this to ascertain what customers bring back to us and in turn what we are able to create with the old plastic toys.

“We want to ensure we’re creating genuinely useful products from the toys children have enjoyed and finished playing with. This test will enable us to work with our suppliers to create a range of new items, maximising the amount of plastic we can recycle and reducing the need for the creation of new virgin plastic.”

If successful, McDonald’s will look to roll the move out to all restaurants in 2020.

The trial follows McDonald’s announcing it will give customers the option of swapping plastic toys in its Happy Meals for fruit bags or books.

The announcements follow increasing consumer pressure on fast food chains to stop handing out the single-use plastic toys, which parents commonly complain are promptly discarded and only contribute to the waste crisis.

McDonald’s said swapping out the toys, alongside its roll-out of paper straws in restaurants, the removal of McFlurry plastic lids and the removal of single-use plastic from McDonald’s salads, would reduce waste by 1,005 metric tonnes annually.