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.
These options provide fundraising revenue for schools, and healthy meals and snacks for students.
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 recycling: plastic 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 composting: paper 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.