Yampa Valley students are working hard to reduce waste in the lunchroom. All schools collect recycling and some schools are even collecting food waste to be turned into compost and packaging to be upcycled into new products. But, after all the lunchroom waste has been recycled, upcycled and composted, there are still many leftovers that have to go in the trash. Most of that trash is single-use plastic bags (zip lock bags) and plastic packaging from single-serving items (lunchables, plastic spoons and forks, and straws). This plastic packaging is not a sustainable use of resources, even if we could recycle it. All the plastic that humankind has manufactured since the beginning of time is still on earth. It does not go away. In other words, plastics can be made from fossil fuels, but plastics cannot be reconverted back into fossil fuels.
Tips to Reduce Lunchroom Waste
Choose to Reuse: At the end of the lunch period, the primary items in the trash can are zip lock bags and plastic, disposable tableware. Packing your lunch with reusable containers and wraps is an easy way to reduce our lunchroom trash. There are so many great options out there for reusable lunchboxes and storage containers – from simple Tupperware to multi-compartment “bento boxes.” And, a container that can be used again means one less plastic bag in the trash. Reusable wraps and/or lunch containers are available locally at The Homesteader, In Celebration of Kids, Ace and grocery stores.
If you need to pack a spoon or fork, please pack a metal one that can be taken home and washed and reused. If you don’t want to send your best flatware to school, buy silverware odds and ends at a thrift store specifically for use in your child’s school lunches.
Reduce pre-packaged food: There are so many lunch choices that come individually pre-packaged, such as Lunchables and single-portion bags of chips. These items are easy for us when we pack lunch but the packaging is often not recyclable. Try to buy bulk or in bigger quantities and use reusable containers to pack small portions.
Take a break from Tetra Paks: We all use them – juice and milk boxes and pouches. Most are not recyclable or upcyclable, and they end up in the trash bins in the lunchroom every day. Instead of a juice or milk box in the lunch, fill a reusable bottle at home or choose a beverage packaged in a recyclable plastic bottle or aluminum can.
Remind your child about what can be recycled and composted in his/her lunch: While you are packing lunch, take a minute to talk with your child about what can be recycled, upcycled and composted. If you are not sure, please take a look at the list below or stop by the lunchroom anytime.
Other resources for reusables:
- All plastics #1 through 7 – this includes yogurt containers, cup-o-soups, water bottles, etc.
- Aluminum foil and cans
- Clean paper and cardboard
- Food scraps (sandwich crusts, apple cores, orange peels, etc.)
- Paper napkins
Upcycle (check your school’s guidelines)
- Fruit Squeezes
- Juice pouches
Thanks for helping to bring our school cafeterias closer to Zero Waste!