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Avoiding the "Trashy Four" When Packing School Lunches

PHOTO: Some simple changes in how a school lunch is packed can prevent tons of trash from ending up in Minnesota landfills, so parents and students are being urged to go with reusable containers. Photo credit: www.anotherlunch.com/Flickr.
PHOTO: Some simple changes in how a school lunch is packed can prevent tons of trash from ending up in Minnesota landfills, so parents and students are being urged to go with reusable containers. Photo credit: www.anotherlunch.com/Flickr.
August 13, 2014

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Students returning to school across the state this month won't just be forming friendships and making the team. They'll also generate a massive amount of trash - although proper planning can reduce that greatly.

According to waste-reduction advocate Leslie Holsapple, program and outreach manager for Metro Waste Authority in Des Moines, Iowa, the average school-age child using a disposable lunch generates more than 60 pounds of waste per school year.

"We would urge parents and kids to especially avoid having lunch with the 'trashy four' this fall," she said. "Those include packing lunches with paper, plastic, Styrofoam and foil."

Instead of using those "trashy four" options, Holsapple suggested a reusable lunch box with reusable food and drink containers. Another way to cut down on the garbage from packed school lunches, she said, is to use actual silverware and to go "old school" when it comes to napkins.

"Paper napkins and paper towels are not recyclable, and so we would urge people to use a cloth napkin," she said. "I know that that's not something that a lot of people use day to day, but it can be washed and reused, over and over again. I think the kids will think it's kind of fun to have a lunch that's a little different than their friends - and might start a new trend in school."

Each year, Holsapple said, more than 34 million tons of paper towels and napkins wind up in landfills and enough Styrofoam cups and containers are thrown away to circle the Earth more than 400 times.

More information is online at mwatoday.com.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN