How to guide


> 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.

Having a fresh and healthy lunch also helps kids concentrate and gives them more energy. Most healthy foods also come with only a little packaging or natural packaging, which makes packing a waste free lunch easy!

How To Do It

Find your benchmark

At the beginning of the day, ask students to count the total number of packets in their lunchbox. Tally these up for a class total.

Quick tip: You could do this every day for a week or once a week over a month or term to get an average.

Get set to go ‘nude’

Decide how often you will go waste free ‒ once a month, once a week or every day.

Brainstorm how to pack a waste free lunch by exploring these points:

  • How different types of foods are packaged (e.g. bulk packaging vs. individual packets)
  • Why it’s important to reduce packaging (e.g. saves landfill space and stops litter)
  • What does a healthy lunch look like (e.g. every day vs. sometimes foods)
  • How can it be done? (E.g. food that doesn’t come wrapped, re-usable containers/drink bottles)

Quick tip: You could also encourage the canteen to provide waste free/low waste options or run special package free food days.

 Spread the word

Communication with parents (and care givers) will help you to achieve your waste free lunch goals. Tell them what the class is doing and how they can help using a letter home, a message in the school newsletter or notice on the school bulletin board.

 Measure up

Conduct a follow-up waste free lunchbox check. Tally and compare your results to your benchmark data to measure your impact.

Whole school tip

It’s easy to get the whole school involved in reducing waste with you:

  • Use an assembly to introduce the ‘waste free lunch’ concept
  • Get the school leaders or sustainability group to teach each year level how it’s done
  • Combine data from all participating classrooms to measure whole school success

What’s Our Impact?

Calculate the amount of waste saved from going to landfill. Here’s some inspiration:

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 class 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.