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McDonald’s Isn’t Playing Around When it Comes to Sustainability

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Recycled Happy Meal toys were used to build this outdoor playground in the garden of Ronald McDonald House Oxford, a 62-bedroom facility that acts as a home-away-from-home for families with children at Oxford Children’s Hospital. (McDonald’s)

Not many would look at Happy Meals toys and think, “I could build a playground out of that,” but McDonald’s did. The fast-food company is focusing on sustainability in its work, which recently led it to announce that its Happy Meal orders at its restaurants in the United Kingdom and Ireland will include soft toys, books and paper-based items instead of non-sustainable hard plastic toys.

According to McDonald’s, this will remove more than 3,000 tons of plastic from circulation in the United Kingdom and Ireland. But McDonald’s has found good use for the plastic toys it previously sold. In 2019, its restaurants in the United Kingdom and Ireland invited families to return and recycle them instead of throwing them away.

The collected items — along with surplus toys from its locations — resulted in more than 1 million toys. Some were used to build an outdoor playground in the garden of Ronald McDonald House Oxford, a 62-bedroom facility in Oxford, United Kingdom, that acts as a home-away-from-home for families who have children at Oxford Children’s Hospital.

The playground, McDonald’s says, is intended for children of all ages and abilities. But it also can be broken and recycled someday. “At least 15 more playgrounds made from recycled Happy Meal toys are planned throughout the UK and Ireland in 2021,” the chain reports. “Of course, none of this would be possible without the suppliers who are an important part of the McDonald’s UK and Ireland McFamily, including Circular&Co, Veolia, Red Monkey and Plaswood.”

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