Too many ‘happy toys’ create too much waste

Ross Schuette, Staff Writer

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Many of us remember the cherished trips of our youth to McDonalds for a delightful Happy Meal and a dip in the ball pit. Unfortunately, allowing children to fall prey to tricky advertising by purchasing a Happy Meal at McDonalds leaves long lasting, negative affects on them, others, and even the planet.

The main drive toward a Happy Meal consists of the deadly synthesis of unhealthy food and well-aimed marketing. Children the age of 6 or younger cannot possibly comprehend the crafty construction of deceitful marketing hidden in funny, entertaining commercials – not that all adults even do.

Creating a desire for misunderstood products in children puts unnecessary pressure on parents and their checkbooks. The key components of the marketing are instilling children with the desire for immediate gratification in fatty foods and “free” toys in every Happy Meal.

The pieces of plastic are manufactured cheaply in countries such as Vietnam and China under poor work conditions and wages. After which, the toys are flown over 4,000 miles from their origins in Southeast Asia to the United States and are further transported hundreds more miles to various McDonalds locations.

Their arrival results in the plastic wrapping ripped to shreds as children play with the contents for an average of 20 minutes before they are forgotten and thrown away the next day. The amount of energy and exploitation of workers and natural resources is simply not worth it.

Happy Meals have certainly impacted McDonalds’ business trends since their release in 1979. Clever marketing to children has ensured large profits for the company through these meals, which have recently had their integrity challenged by legislation in San Francisco.

The resulting law requires a Happy Meal to meet nutritional expectations before a toy is to be passed with the meal. The meal must not exceed specified amounts of sugar, fat or sodium.

McDonalds has occasionally diverted from the toy track. As early as the 1990s, some McDonalds franchises would help celebrate Arbor Day by rewarding a Happy Meal with a shovel and packet of plant or tree seeds. Madison local Katrina Gray was such a youngster-turned-arborist, who recently celebrated the 17-year anniversary of a pine tree planted in her front yard.

These seed giveaways produced quite the opposite effect compared to their toy counterparts. The seeds are more “McVironmentally” friendly, and are much more “free” than a useless toy. Next time you stop at a fast food joint ask them to please hold the toy.

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