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Waste not, want not: Grand Erie lunches go green

Caption: Students at Bloomsburg Public School participate in ‘Wasteless Wednesdays’ to promote litter-free lunchesbloomsburg.jpg

Did you know that the average student’s lunch generates a total of 30 kilograms (66 pounds) of waste per school year, and an average elementary school generates 8,500 kilograms (18,700 pounds) of waste per year? 

According to the Recycling Council of Ontario, student lunches are a major source of waste in Ontario.

Boomerang and waste-free lunches are one of the ways Grand Erie schools are combatting this problem by generating less food-related waste.

Boomerang lunches are an eco-friendly way to pack a lunch. Instead of throwing away leftover food, containers, recyclables or garbage at school, any leftovers come back home. 

Waste-free lunches are a level above boomerang lunches, with a goal of producing absolutely no garbage. All lunch gear is reusable including lunch bags, utensils and food/drink containers.

Bloomsburg Public School in Waterford saw a significant decrease in waste produced this past fall when they encouraged students to participate in Wasteless Wednesdays, packing lunches free of any disposable materials. 

"Our school custodian estimated that waste was down one-third as a result of starting Wasteless Wednesdays, and that was throughout the week, not just on Wednesday," said Teacher Michelle Stewart. "It was staggering to see the difference one small measure can make." 

What’s the difference between throwing out waste at school and throwing out waste at home? In many schools, organic materials are not sorted in separate containers. Instead, organic matter goes into garbage bins instead. Methane gas is produced when organic waste decomposes in landfills, which is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide in terms of its global warming potential. When organic materials are diverted from landfills, such as food and yard waste, it can generate useful products like compost, as well as renewable energy.

Here are some useful tips to start your boomerang and waste-free lunch initiatives:
  • ​Use reusable containers to store food instead of plastic bags/wraps, aluminum foil, and wax paper bags.
  • Use reusable drink containers instead of juice boxes/pouches, cans and plastic bottles.
  • Use stainless steel utensils instead of plastic utensils.
  • Reconsider the way you buy food. Instead of buying pre-packaged items, buy in bulk instead. For example, buy large containers of yogurt instead of individual disposable packages. 
  • Pack lunches in a reusable lunch bag or box and avoid using paper or plastic bags.
  • Create a lunch plan by observing your eating habits. Only pack enough food that you can eat. 
  • Use a washable cloth napkin instead of paper napkins.
With boomerang and waste-free lunches, you can reduce waste, save money and eat healthy, all at the same time. 

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