Yampa Valley students are working hard to reduce waste in the lunchroom. All schools collect recycling and some schools are even collecting packaging to be upcycled into new products. But, after all the lunchroom waste has been recycled and upcycled, there are still many leftovers that have to go in the trash. Most of that trash is single-use plastic bags (zip lock bags) and plastic packaging from single-serving items (lunchables, plastic spoons and forks, and straws). This plastic packaging is not a sustainable use of resources, even if we could recycle it. All the plastic that humankind has manufactured since the beginning of time is still on earth. It does not go away. In other words, plastics can be made from fossil fuels, but plastics cannot be reconverted back into fossil fuels.

Tips to Reduce Lunchroom Waste

Choose to Reuse: At the end of the lunch period, the primary items in the trash can are zip lock bags and plastic, disposable tableware. Packing your lunch with reusable containers and wraps is an easy way to reduce our lunchroom trash. There are so many great options out there for reusable lunchboxes and storage containers – from simple Tupperware to multi-compartment “bento boxes.” And, a container that can be used again means one less plastic bag in the trash. Reusable wraps and/or lunch containers are available locally at Natural Grocers, The Homesteader, In Celebration of Kids, Ace and grocery stores.

If you need to pack a spoon or fork, please pack a metal one that can be taken home and washed and reused. If you don’t want to send your best flatware to school, buy silverware odds and ends at a thrift store specifically for use in your child’s school lunches.

Other resources for reusables:

Reduce pre-packaged food:  There are so many lunch choices that come individually pre-packaged, such as Lunchables and single-portion bags of chips.  These items are easy for us when we pack lunch but the packaging is often not recyclable. Try to buy bulk or in bigger quantities and use reusable containers to pack small portions.

Take a break from beverage boxes and pouches:  Most juice and milk boxes and pouches are not recyclable or upcyclable, and they end up in the trash bins in the lunchroom every day.  Instead of a juice or milk box, fill a reusable bottle at home or choose a beverage packaged in a recyclable plastic bottle or aluminum can.

Remind your child about what can be recycled in his/her lunch:  While you are packing lunch, take a minute to talk with your child about what can be recycled or upcycled.  If you are not sure, please take a look at the list below or stop by the lunchroom anytime.

Recycle SignRecycle

  • All plastics #1 through 7 – this includes yogurt containers, cup-o-soups, water bottles, etc.
  • Aluminum foil and cans
  • Clean paper and cardboard
  • Glass

Upcycle (check your school’s guidelines)

  • Fruit Squeezes
  • Juice pouches

Other resources:


Thanks for helping to reduce lunchroom waste!