School lunch programs and the packaging waste they create

When I was in elementary school, we’d have hot dog days once every few months. Parents would get together and steam hot dogs in the staff room. The hot dogs came wrapped in a paper napkin, and we had a choice of white or chocolate milk.

Fast forward to today, and elementary students have many more paid-lunch options.

Many schools now have weekly pizza or pita days. There are hot lunch providers like Kidssentials or The Lunch Lady, healthy snack programs like Halton Food For Thought, and milk programs too.

These options provide fundraising revenue for schools, and healthy meals and snacks for students.

A black and clear plastic take out container can go in Halton's Blue Box program.

A black and clear plastic take out container can go in Halton’s Blue Box program.

But they also result in a lot of packaging waste. Cartons, containers, cutlery, baggies, wrappers and uneaten food — this greatly contributes to the amount of waste a school has to manage.

Luckily, a lot of this waste can be recycled and composted:

  • Blue Box recyclingplastic take-out containers, plastic cups, plastic deli trays, plastic milk bottles, plastic smoothie bottles, plastic water bottles, aluminum foil, aluminum trays, milk cartons, pizza boxes
  • GreenCart compostingpaper napkins, paper plates, paper take-out containers, paper pita wrappers, paper pizza trays, pizza box liners, wood cutlery, food waste

Unfortunately, some of the waste has to be sent to landfill:

  • Garbage: plastic film, plastic bags, plastic cutlery, plastic pizza box “savers,” plastic bottle caps, “compostable” plastic cutlery, “compostable” plastic cups, paper/foil composite lids, Styrofoam, wrappers

The easiest solution to reducing the garbage is for schools to mandate what packaging can be used by food providers. For example, schools can request that food providers not use Styrofoam.

School administrators and parent council members can learn more about creating a healthy school nutrition environment.

School lunch programs provide students with nutritious foods that help children and youth excel. With some thought, the waste created by these programs can be effectively managed, helping to better protect our environment.

About John Watson

I'm a communicator, educator and project manager with a focus on environmental and public works issues. I am currently the Environmental Manager for the Municipality of Dysart et al in Haliburton County. Previously, I was the Onboarding Director for ReCollect Systems, where I implemented digital communication products for municipalities and non-profits. For eight years, I was the Waste Diversion Educator Coordinator for Halton Region, where I implemented award winning communications and outreach programs.
This entry was posted in Blue Box, Compost, Garbage, GreenCart, Recycle, Reduce, Reuse, Schools and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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