Burger King stops giving away plastic toys to UK customers

Key Points
  • The issue of plastic waste and what to do with it has become a hot topic for business.
  • Burger King says its move will save an estimated 320 tons of single-use plastic each year.
A view of a sign for Burger King fast food restaurant in London. London stock 25-01-2019 . (Photo by Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images)
Mike Egerton - EMPICS | PA Images | Getty Images

Burger King in the U.K. will no longer have plastic toys with its kids' meals as of Thursday.

The fast food giant is also installing "plastic toy amnesty bins" in its U.K. restaurants, which will allow people to return their free or giveaway plastic toys so they can be reused. The idea is to turn the recycled plastic toys into restaurant play areas or items such as trays.

In an announcement Thursday, Burger King said its move would save an estimated 320 tons of single-use plastic each year. By 2025, it wants packaging to be 100% recyclable, reusable or compostable.

"We are a global brand, and the U.K. market will be leading the way in making this first step towards change, which is part of our wider commitment on reducing plastics," Fernando Machado, Burger King's global chief marketing officer, said in a statement.

"Work is currently underway across all of our markets to look at how we can completely move away from non bio-degradable plastic toys by 2025," Machado added.

Burger King's move comes a day after competitor McDonald's U.K. and Ireland announced it would offer its customers the option of "swapping out" their Happy Meal toy for a fruit bag. The scheme will start next month in selected restaurants. From 2020, it will trial offering customers the choice between a book and a toy.

The issue of plastic waste and what to do with it is a hot topic for business. The EU has said that Europeans produce 25 million tons of plastic waste annually, with less than 30% collected for recycling.

In the U.K., at least, awareness of plastic pollution has been raised by shows such as "Blue Planet II." Presented by David Attenborough, the program highlighted the shocking impact plastic has on wildlife.

Helen Bird, who is strategic engagement manager at sustainability charity Wrap, said Burger King had "taken a bold step by discontinuing a long-standing incentive as part of its children's menu."

"The public are looking to business to provide leadership to address throwaway society and Burger King have responded well to this," Bird added.