Are Your Kids Having Lunch With the Trashy Four?

posted 8/6/2014

Convenience vs. the Environment

As Americans, we have come to depend on convenience food products, especially when we pack our lunch. Many lunches include single-use plastic bags, aluminum foil, and single-serving items that come in disposable packaging. These products are extremely convenient, but what is the environmental cost? The Trashy Four of Lunch – plastic, paper, foil and foam – are some of the worst offenders. They end up being the litter in our waterways, parks, and along our highways, not to mention loading up our landfills.

How Lunch Waste Stacks Up (on Paper and in the Landfill)

  • 34.6 million tons of paper towels and napkins wind up in landfills each year.
  • 13 million tons of plastic containers and packaging is generated each year and only 8 percent is recycled.
  • 75% of all aluminum foil is used for food packaging and we throw away enough foil each year to build a fleet of aircraft.
  • We throw away enough Styrofoam cups and containers annually to circle the Earth 436 times.  Some research suggests that Styrofoam can persist in the environment for more than a million years.

The Solution? Pack a Waste-Free Lunch

Many people pack their lunch, but school kids probably take a packed lunch more frequently than almost anybody else. This is a big factor in lunch waste statistics. It’s estimated that the average school-age child using a disposable lunch generates 67 pounds of waste per school year. That equates to 18,760 pounds of lunch waste for just one average-size elementary school!

Packing a waste-free lunch is easy and often translates into healthier eating habits. Invest in a lunch box or bag, a reusable drink bottle and food containers for your family members.  Check out this short video on packing a waste-free lunch.

When Making Lunch, Include these Waste-Free Items:

  1. Sandwiches in reusable containers
  2. Whole fruits without packaging
  3. Drinks in reusable drink containers
  4. Snacks purchased in bulk and packed in reusable containers
  5. Reusable ice packs
  6. A stainless steel fork and spoon (some of your old ones will do)
  7. A cloth napkin

Become less dependent on single-serving lunch items – less garbage, less cost, better for kids and the environment.