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Waste-Free Lunch

When the 2014 academic year began, all Winchester schools were poised to begin recycling in the cafeterias, diverting milk cartons, juice boxes, plastic containers and more from our trash.   The kids have been learning, but reminders are needed.  Those who recycle at home find it very easy to do at school.  Ask your child what s/he recycles at school.  Review the “Zero Sort” recycling list together and see our single stream recycling works at .

So, what is left in the cafeteria trash barrels?  How can we aim for “Zero Waste Lunches”?  Well, food waste accounts for the largest portion of the volume by weight. Parent volunteers helping with cafeteria recycling have noted many children throw away untouched or barely eaten food, most of which could return home for snacks.  Encourage your child to bring home uneaten food for a snack later.   At Vinson Owen school, a group of parent Green Team volunteers has been collecting fruit and vegetable scraps during lunch and taking them to Wright-Locke Farm for chicken food and compost.  Ambrose school plans to collect compostable waste in the cafeteria during the warmer months to fill the compost bin by their school garden. The second largest portion by volume is taken up by the Styrofoam “trays” on which the food is served.  With a concern for the health risks and environmental impacts of polystyrene, Winchester is looking into alternatives.

During a cafeteria “Waste Audit” conducted in October by the high school AP Environmental Science class, the students found many recyclable plastic containers were being thrown away with food left in them.  Were they scraped clean, those could be recycled as well. Recycling may take an extra moment at lunch time, but think of the long-term benefit to our air, land and water!  Plastics don’t “disappear!”  Finally, though not large in weight but significant in environmental impact, are the many single-serving snack wrappers from granola bars, squeezable yogurt tubes, chip bags, packaged cookies and the like.  Additionally, plastic baggies such as Ziploc, cannot be recycled. All of these single-serving foods are much less expensive bought in larger quantities and packed in reusable containers.  It has been estimated that an average “disposable lunch” costs $4.02/day, whereas an average “Waste Free Lunch” costs $2.65/day!

This April, in the week before vacation, Winchester elementary schools will practice a Waste-Free Lunch Day!  Students and staff bringing their own lunch to school will be encouraged to pack their entire lunch in reusable containers.  Not only will that eliminate trash, but will make it possible for students to bring home food they did not eat at lunch time.  Most parents appreciate knowing what their child actually ate during the school day and the opportunity for the food they’ve prepared to be eaten as a snack after school.  In an effort to support and promote Waste-Free Lunches, low-cost reusable sandwich and snack wraps will be sold near cost.

Please look for more information from your school about the Waste Free Lunch Day and the opportunity to purchase low-cost, low-impact, reusable lunch wraps. At all times,  families are asked to support recycling on school grounds, whether in the classrooms, gymnasiums, offices or playgrounds.  Please place emptied plastics, foil or glass containers and clean paper/cardboard into the many recycling bins placed around the schools.  As everyone makes an effort to REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE, we can share in the pride of cutting our municipal waste management costs, reducing our “carbon footprint” and preserving the Earth’s natural resources for future generations.

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