Queensland Sustainable Schools

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Department of Education and Training

Litter-free lunches


Much of the rubbish that we generate and send to landfill comes from the packaging on the food we buy, and lunch foods are no exception.

In fact, it has been estimated that on average a school-age child using a disposable lunch generates three pieces of litter per day, which equates to 30 kg of waste per year. This works out to be 15 tonnes of waste produced by a school of 500 students each year from lunch boxes alone!

Based around the 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle), litter free lunches (also known as ‘nude food’) are lunches that contain food items with no disposable packaging or single use items, such as pre-packaged foods, plastic bags, juice poppers, bottled water, disposable utensils, plastic straws or food wrapped in cling wrap or foil.

Instead, all food is provided in reusable food and drink containers, so that there is no packaging to place into the bin and the majority of the waste produced is organic (i.e. food scraps) which can be recycled via school compost bins and worm farms.

Benefits of litter-free school lunches include:

  • students eating healthier lunches, as they are being provided with less pre-packaged 'gimmicky' snack foods and more fresh food in appropriate amounts
  • less waste being produced and sent to landfill
  • cheaper lunches, as food items bought in bulk are less expensive than pre-packaged products
  • a reduction in waste collection and disposal costs to the school, as less waste is being generated by the school community
  • providing students with a practical example of how simple behaviour change can easily address a widespread environmental issue
  • promotion of environmental stewardship and advocacy within the school
  • a cleaner school (research has shown that less litter is dropped in areas free of litter compared to areas where litter is more noticeable)

Introducing a litter-free lunch day or program is a great way to reduce the amount of rubbish coming into your school. The resources below provide useful, practical information on how to establish a 'nude food' initiative within your school community.

Additional resources and links