How to guide

Early Childhood

> Waste Free Lunches
Spread the word about the benefits of packing a healthy, waste-free lunch


‘Waste free lunches’: it’s simply food that is packed without packaging! Why and what?! Well, on average, a child who has a disposable lunch generates three pieces of rubbish per day, which equals a monstrous 30kg of waste per child per year! By making the most of the natural packaging of food (e.g. peels, skins, rinds, etc) and by wrapping food in packaging that can be re-used or recycled, you’ll be drastically reducing the environmental impact of your food.

Going ‘waste free’ and reducing the amount of packaging creates less waste and saves landfill space. And because wrapper free foods tend to be fresh foods (fruit and vegetables) it also encourages healthy eating which means more energy for playtime!

How To Do It

If your centre prepares food, try the following:

  • Buy your fruits and vegetables from a local producer and reduce food miles
  • Buy staples (rice, pasta, etc) in bulk to save packaging waste
  • Choose recyclable packaging where possible
  • Focus on fresh and healthy foods at eating times
  • Start an edible garden and involve children in collecting food to make their lunch

If children bring a packed lunch, explore how to go ‘nude’ by:

  • Packing food in re-usable containers or a lunchbox with compartments
  • Packing a re-usable drink bottle instead of a disposal bottle or juice box
  • Avoiding disposable packaging such as packets, cling film, paper bags

 Encourage healthy eating by talking to the children about:

  • The difference between ‘every day’ and ‘sometimes’ (treat) foods
  • Why some foods don’t get eaten and are wasted
  • Foods they do and don’t like and their favourite healthy snacks

Quick tip: Get the children to draw their favourite foods or take a picture of the children holding up their favourite healthy snacks!

Whole centre tip

Get all rooms and staff involved in going ‘nude’. To help parents/care givers with packing a nude food lunch, explain what the centre is doing and share the above information (pictures/photos) with them.

What’s Our Impact?

Calculate the amount of waste saved from going to landfill by going nude. For example:

Three pieces of waste a day is equal to 30kg of waste per year. Approximately 1kg of plastic has a 6kg CO2e carbon footprint. What does that mean?

  • 30kg fills a 240L wheelie bin or equals 180 CO2e (CO2 equivalent) kg a year
  • 22kg fills a shopping trolley (175L) or 132 CO2e kg a year
  • 75kg fills a shopping basket (30L) or 22.5 CO2e kg per year

How much packing waste did your group/the centre save from going to landfill ‒ a wheelie bin full? What is the positive impact?


Fast Facts

Australians throw away up to 20% of the food they purchase. This equates to one out of every five bags of groceries.

Australians waste 4 million tonnes of food a year. This equates to 523kg for each household, which is the same weight as more than five average sized fridges.

The food that Australia wastes each year is enough to fill 450,000 rubbish trucks. Placed end to end, they would bridge the gap between Australia and New Zealand – more than three times.