Kids petition McDonalds to stop plastic toys in Happy Meals

Kid Activists Against Fast Food Plastic

Ella, 7 and Caitlin, 9 started a petition asking McDonalds and Burger King to stop giving away plastic toys with kids meals. With more than 342,000 signatures, it seems to have struck a chord. And feels impossibly fresh, like something that would never have happened when I was a kid. I looked forward to the free toy in my Happy Meal. I remember thinking how cool it was that Happy Meals were especially designed for kids. And to top it off for the price of a cheapy burger and fries you got a toy. I can still feel the excitement and joy the whole experience had on me.

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We all want our children to do better than us– but can we think of progress as achievements that don’t step on people and our planet’s well being.

Not just that they went on to ask big, rich companies to not make toys from plastic at all. In this episode of BBC One’s War on Plastic the producers piled up the amount of toys that McDonalds gives away every five minutes across the UK– the quantity was enough to fill four flat bed trollers. Times that by 288, the number of 5 minutes in 24 hours, and that’s 1,152 flat bed trolleys. You can begin to see the problem.

And when they doorstopped McDonalds headquarter there’s a really uncomfortable moment when security ask them to leave the premises and the girls are visually distraught. In the end McDonalds took a meeting with the girls and have promised to dedicate time and money to making a plan to reduce their use of plastic.

What a super brave duo Ella and Caitin, it takes guts to stand up for what you believe in. And they seem to be a barometer for what kids are thinking today. I have 3 x nine year olds and 1 x eight year old in my kitchen as I type. When I told them I was writing this story, they unanimously without hesitation said this was a great idea. Within instants, they were logged into change.org and signing their names to the petition.

While I totally salute the sister’s initiative and support less consumerism and plastic throwaway toys. I wonder if this is the root of the problem or if it goes deeper.

Education is one thing, access to non-biodegradable plastic is another, but as long as there are parents who don’t have wallets full of cash, there will be people making immediately gratifying choices. Like getting your kid a cheap plastic throwaway toy because it brings a moment of joy. Because sometimes you do it because it’s all you’ve got.

So if it’s not McDonalds, Burger King, Subway, Poundland or imported from China no-name toxic toy… there will always be someone who sees a market opportunity.

And I think bringing a free toy to children who buy an inexpensive meal has in many ways been a massive achievement, that is has negative environmental repercussions today speaks more to the fact that we need to lift the world’s poor out of poverty. If we weren’t all so worried about keeping a roof over our head maybe we would have more time and space to develop ethical values that were inclusive and had global benefits.

UNICEF estimates half the world’s children (or 1.1 billion) live in poverty, which is extremely worrying.

What about building a society that doesn’t make basic wellbeing so hard to achieve, from the stats above we can see we are on our way. Luckily it’s not all bad news, there has been progress, the World Bank forecasted in 2015 that 702.1 million people were living in extreme poverty, down from 1.75 billion in 1990.

I think the next generation have got it covered. I predict that in the future, the next generations will invent a way to degenerate waste or make things disappear. Of course there’s bound to be a potential negative to this too but that’s nature isn’t it?– the yin and the yang.

Angkanaratt Chansri, co-founder and CEO of Awintoo.com app 

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