August 17th, 2023

Empty stainless steel planet lunchbox with lid open.

To help encourage families to decrease waste by packing litterless lunches when kids go back to school, Peterborough GreenUP has launched a new colouring contest where a randomly chosen winner will receive a Planet Box Launch container worth $80. Details about the contest, which closes August 25, can be found on @ptbogreenup on Facebook. (Photo: Eileen Kimmett / GreenUP)

By: Eileen Kimmett, GreenUP Store & Resource Coordinator

It’s back-to-school season! How about creating a goal to pack a litterless lunch this year?

Litterless lunches are lunches with little or no packaging.

Each year, GreenUP encourages students and families to consider how they can incorporate litterless lunches into their daily routine. This practice means thinking about what we take to school and what we bring home.

This year, the City of Peterborough’s new garbage and compost collection program coincides with the fall school season.

We are excited that starting October 31st, a weekly ‘green bin’ service will be introduced to collect household organic waste. Additionally, clear garbage bags will become mandatory for residential waste collection and the program will switch to every-other-week residential garbage collection.

Packing lunches for school can potentially produce a lot of waste. And since most schools send lunch garbage home with students (these are called ‘boomerang’ lunches), getting into the habit of reducing waste in the lunchbox will make garbage day easier for the whole family.

If you wanted to skip the details in this article, we vouch for one easy action this season: choose products that can be reused for a long time, which will save money and give back to the environment, too.

Single-use plastic straws are being phased out of production by the end of 2023. Reusable metal or silicone straws are alternatives to single-use plastic straws. (Photo by Eileen Kimmett)

Single-use plastic straws are being phased out of production by the end of 2023. Reusable metal or silicone straws are alternatives to single-use plastic straws. (Photo by Eileen Kimmett)

Read on for how to create a litterless lunch by looking at how to reduce waste created from food storage containers, compartments, and utensils.

Let’s take a look at packing. Take a reusable pack for lunch. Compared to single-use plastic bags which degrade over 1,000 years in the landfill, sturdy reusable lunch containers can be used again and again for many years.

One example of a more sustainable lunch container is Planet Box. They are a United States-based organization that carries storage containers for appetites of all sizes. Planet Box products are designed to be durable. One child switching to a reusable food container can saving up to180 single-use containers per year!

Looking into compartmentalizing your lunch box? Using what you have at home, like mason jars, can help reduce waste. The GreenUP Store carries reusable, leak proof lids for mason jars, making it easier to use the jar for multiple purposes, like for food or a beverage.

Let’s talk juice.

Buying individually sized juice boxes creates more waste than purchasing juice in bulk. Consider purchasing a small reusable water bottle or thermos that you can refill instead of buying disposable juice boxes.

Planet Box and S’well are two organisations that sell drink containers that are catered to young hands and can even be refilled at school.

Speaking of containing, how about wraps and bags?

Four packaged beeswax wraps side by side on a table. Beeswax wraps from Abeego are 100 per cent zero-waste. You can get them at the GreenUP Store & Resource Centre at 378 Aylmer Street North in downtown Peterborough. (Photo: Eileen Kimmett / GreenUP)

Beeswax wraps from Abeego are 100 per cent zero-waste. You can get them at the GreenUP Store & Resource Centre at 378 Aylmer Street North in downtown Peterborough. (Photo: Eileen Kimmett / GreenUP)

A great substitute for plastic sandwich wrap is reusable beeswax paper. Beeswax paper can last up to a year or more with proper care, after which it can be composted. By choosing products that will biodegrade naturally, we can decrease the amount of waste that ends up in a landfill.

Silicone Bags, like those from sustainability brand Stasher, can also be used to eliminate the use of single-use plastic sandwich and snack bags. Not only are Stasher products reusable, but they are dishwasher and microwave friendly, too. Stasher silicone bags come in several sizes and colours, so kiddos can feel creative while at lunch, too!

Utensils are overlooked sometimes, but in December 2023, single-use cutlery like forks, knives, spoons, sporks and chopsticks will be prohibited from being sold in Canada. It will become essential (and mandatory!) to choose reusable by the end of this year.

Bamboo utensil sets can replace single-use forks, knives and spoons. Bamboo is a fast-growing plant making it a renewable and sustainable resource. Bamboo is also known for its durability and versatility.

It’s not always possible to avoid packaging. If you are looking to check up on the recyclability of specific items within the City of Peterborough, there is an excellent online resource located on the City of Peterborough Waste Management webpage called What Goes Where. This web page allows you to type in a particular item or material and then receive specific instruction about the how and where of its disposal.

Zero Waste products for packing lunches on display in the GreenUP Store. The shelves are stocked with stainless steel containers, reusable straws and utentsils, and silicone bags.

The GreenUP Store & Resource Centre at 378 Aylmer Street North in downtown Peterborough carries what you need to pack a litterless lunch. (Photo: Eileen Kimmett / GreenUP)

Whether by examining your containers, wraps and bags and/or utensils, you and your little learner(s) will be well on your way to preparing affordable and environmentally-friendly litterless lunches, and will be reducing waste that you put out on your doorstep too!

To learn more about litterless lunches, visit the GreenUP Store at 378 Aylmer St. North in Peterborough or contact Eileen Kimmett, Store & Resource Centre Coordinator during the week at 705-745-3238 ext. 222. You can also visit the GreenUP online store at https://shop.greenup.on.ca/