School Waste-Free Lunch

  • WasteFreeLunch

    Did you know that an average student school lunch can generate as much as 67 pounds of waste per year? That puts an average-sized elementary producing up to 18,700 pounds of waste per year.  As parents, we pack our children's lunches in single-use containers, such as, plastics bags, aluminum foil, wax paper, or just pack single serving disposable meals. By changing our packing habits we are able to reduce the number of items in our lunch that must be thrown out. 


    By mostly using items that can be eaten, reused, recycled, or composted in our packed lunch, we can: Prevent pollution, Conserve natural resources, Save energy, Reduce the need for disposal, and Be an environmental steward and make a difference in your environment and the environment of the future.  

  has developed a cost analysis that compares disposable vs. waste-free lunches. On average, packing waste-free lunches can save a family $250 per student per year. 

Tips for Packing a Waste-Free Lunch

    1. Pack sandwiches and other main dishes, fresh fruits and, fresh vegetables, and treats in a reusable lunch container or containers sando
    2. Pack cloth napkins instead of paper napkins. 
    3. Place stainless steel or wooden utensils (knife, fork, and spoon) in your children's lunch box
    4. Use reusable drink containers for juice, milk or other beverages. If this is not an option, strive to use recyclable containers and encourage your children to back them back home to be recycled. 
    5. Use a lunch box or reusable lunch bag to pack



    When packing a waste-free, very little trash is generated because foods are bought in bulk or in larger packages. The packaging is left at home for reuse or recycling. Food waste also decreases with a reusable lunch container, as children can re-pack uneaten food instead of dumping it, packaging and all, into the school trash can.

Items to AVOID when Packing School Lunches

  • Below are some commonly found items in school lunches that can be avoided by buying bulk food and repackaging in reusable containers.

    • Sandwiches in disposable plastic bags
    • Fruits and vegetables in plastic bags
    • Prepackaged chips, cookies, fruit bars, granola bars, cheeses, and fruit leathers
    • Single-use yogurts, applesauce, and puddings
    • Crackers, pretzels, chips, and other snack foods sealed in plastic bags
    • Disposable juice boxes, juice pouches, juice cans, water bottles, and milk cartons
    • Plastic forks and spoons
    • Paper napkins
    • Lunches packed in plastic bags