Burger King is taking the very small amount of moral high ground available to a global fast food corporation on McDonald’s by leading a “meltdown” campaign to remove plastic toys from its meals for children. Contrasting with Burger King’s paternalistic approach, McDonald’s is offering kids, or more likely their parents, a choice: plastic toy, bag of fruit, or, from 2020, a book, according to the BBC.
It follows a widely circulated petition by Caitlin and Ella McEwan, who implored the fast food giants to “think of the environment and stop giving plastic toys with their kids meals.” The petition received half a million signatures, but McDonald’s chief executive Lee Pomroy said that offering customers a choice was more effective for understanding their motives than scrapping the toys altogether:
“The gifts provide fun for many families and children. That’s why we’ll be running these trials, in order to give our customers a choice. They also can choose not to have a toy or gift at all.”
There’s some nobility here, but given both restaurant chains are entirely dependent on environmentally destructive mass cattle farming and beef production, as well as underpaid workforces, there’s more than a whiff of the plastic straw effect about the decision. Burger King’s melting, however, is reportedly able to repurpose the plastic for new trays, cutting out two “new” sources of plastic use, which could have an appreciable knock-on effect if applied across its global footprint of over 12,000 restaurants. McDonald’s has just under 40,000. Wait to see just how far this goes.