McDonald's Big Move

Nicole Higginbotham-Hogue
Photo by Meghan Hessler on Unsplash

We all have our childhood memories regarding McDonald’s, and most of us remember receiving our Happy Meals and wondering what toy was inside. However, in an effort to combat the environmental impact that their business has had, McDonald’s has decided to phase out plastic toys in these meals starting in 2021 (McDonalds, 2021).

Instead of the plastic toys that children have gotten used to, the company will be supplying soft toys, paper toys, or books (Durbin, 2021). This will allow the company to make more sustainable decisions when it comes to their meals and lower the negative impact that they have on the environment.

The idea for the Happy Meal first came about in the 1970’s as a means for mothers to feed their children more effectively (Darling, 2019). At that time, these meals didn’t have toys in them at all. Instead, the company sold various toys depicting their characters [Ronald McDonald, Grimace, etc.] freely in their restaurant locations.

The origin of the inspiration of the Happy Meal actually came from a franchise owner in Guatemala named Yolanda Fernández de Cofiño (Darling, 2019). She made kid’s meals at her location in an attempt to help the mothers that frequented her restaurant feed their children a more rounded meal. After seeing that the demand for these meals was high, she created a menu with all of her kid’s meals, called Menu Ronald, and it caught the eye of the McDonald’s management staff (Darling, 2019).

McDonald’s soon decided to develop on Fernández de Cofiño’s idea, creating what we know as the modern-day Happy Meal. In 1979, the first Happy Meal was released. “It came with fries, cookies, a soft drink, and a toy” (Mertes, 2021). This was the first time that toys were actually included with these kid’s menu items, and the idea was a hit.

Now, almost 42 years later, McDonald’s is going to redesign this meal once more. With the incorporation of non-plastic toys, McDonald’s will be able to continue to bring smiles to kid’s faces while keeping the world that they will be living on for the next few decades cleaner. The Happy Meal of the future will definitely be different, but that’s not a bad thing. If you think about it, the inspiration behind the idea was to serve food that kids enjoyed. The toy didn’t come until later.


Darling, Ruthie. “Thanks to the Happy Meal, McDonald’s Is the Largest Toy Distributor in the World.” Considerable, Considerable, 6 Nov. 2019,

Durbin, Dee-Ann. “McDonald’s to Phase out Plastic Toys in Happy Meals Worldwide by 2025.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 21 Sept. 2021,

EPA. “Facts and Figures about Materials, Waste and Recycling.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency,

Mertes, Alyssa. “The History of McDonald’s Toys: Happy Meals & Other Fun Merchandise.” Promotional Products Blog, 20 Aug. 2021,

“McDonald’s Pledges to Remove Non-Sustainable Hard Plastic from Its Iconic Happy Meal.” McDonalds, 2021,

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Nicole Higginbotham-Hogue writes lifestyle articles.

Omaha, NE

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