How Does Waste-free Lunch Add Up?

Young girl eating from a luch box

Back to school again, and many parents are considering what to do about lunch. If you need a reason to make this the year that you switch to reusable lunch boxes, reduction of solid waste should be reason enough.

Reduce Solid Waste from School Lunch

If every elementary age child in Canada were to use reusable lunch boxes, we could prevent 185.6 million pounds* of waste. That’s about 67lbs per child per school year, which is about the weight of the average child in grade 3. If it’s difficult to wrap your mind around what 92,795 tons means, think of it as 7,000-24,000 African elephants, depending on their size. It’s a lot of waste, and it goes into landfill unnecessarily.

That waste includes both packaging waste and food waste.

  • To reduce packaging waste, don’t buy prepared foods. Prepare your own foods in reusable containers. Provide reusable napkins and utensils.
  • To reduce food waste, pack smaller portions of foods your child likes, and vary the food so it doesn’t get boring.

There is another very important change that schools can make to reduce food waste. Put recess before lunch. School plate waste studies show a dramatic reduction in food and drink waste when children play before they eat.

*185,590,000 = 67lbs per child per year x 2.77 million elementary age children in Canada.

Image © Anke Van Wyk |

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