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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Schoolgirls praised as campaign pushes fast food giants to dump plastic toys

Catholic environmentalists have praised two young sisters for encouraging fast food giants to consider reducing their plastic waste.

Burger King and McDonald’s have both announced they are to remove plastic toys from their children’s meals entirely, or allow customers to swap them out, in an effort to reduce waste.

Burger King removed all plastic toys from its children’s meals served in the UK from Thursday, 19th September, to save an estimated 320 tonnes of waste annually.

In a separate announcement, McDonald’s said it will give customers the option of swapping plastic toys in its Happy Meals for fruit bags or books.

Burger King said the move was part of a wider commitment to reduce its use of plastic, and admitted it was “spurred on” by Southampton sisters Ella and Caitlin McEwan’s petition against the use of plastic toys in children’s meals.

The petition, calling on Burger King and McDonald’s to ‘think of the environment and stop giving plastic toys with their kids’ meals’, has attracted half a million signatures.

Welcoming the removal of plastic toys, Ellen Teague, of the Columban Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation, told The Catholic Universe: “I would guess that most of them [the plastic toys] were wasted anyway or had a very temporary use.”

Mrs Teague also pointed out that one “ very interesting element” of the decision was the fact that it was two young girls who initiated the change.

“The eco-conscious sisters started their petition after learning in school about how plastic harms the environment. It is one of many examples today of young people giving an inspirational lead in helping society to become more sustainable,” she said. “Let us thank our young people for leading us away from plastic waste and excessive packaging. We are moving towards being less of a throwaway culture.”

Burger King is also creating ‘amnesty bins’ into which customers can throw unwanted plastic toys, which will be melted down to make restaurant trays in the future.

Dr Edward Echlin, an eco-theologian and Honorary Fellow at Leeds Trinity University, welcomed the moves but noted that the reuse of plastic toys and waste is “only a small step towards genuine sustainable use” and urged the companies to “abandon the use of plastic completely”.

Picture: Burger King’s photo announcing the removal of all plastic toys from its children’s meals served in the UK. (Burger King/PA).