Bombay School - Our Best Always - Ake Runga - Years 0 to 8

What is a waste-free lunch program?


A waste-free lunch program begins with a statement. The Bombay School community decided that it is going to make waste reduction on site a priority, and one of the best places to start is with lunch and snack waste.

A waste-free lunch program is a process of educating students, parents, and school staff about where our trash ends up and how we, as individuals, can reduce the amount of trash we generate. Waste-free lunch programs favour the use of reusable food containers, drink containers, utensils, and napkins. They discourage the use of disposable packaging, such as prepackaged foods, plastic bags, juice boxes and pouches, paper napkins, and disposable utensils.


What does a waste-free lunch look like?

A Typical American Lunch

  • sandwiches sealed in plastic bags
  • fruits and vegetables in plastic bags
  • prepackaged chips, cookies, fruit bars, granola bars, cheeses, and fruit leathers
  • prepackaged yogurts, applesauces, and puddings
  • crackers, pretzels, chips, and other snack foods sealed in plastic bags
  • disposable juice boxes, juice pouchs, soda cans, water bottles, and milk cartons
  • plastic forks and spoons
  • paper napkins
  • reusable lunchboxes and disposable paper and plastic bags
A Waste-Free Lunch

  • sandwiches and other main dishes, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, and treats in a reusable lunch container
  • cloth napkins
  • stainless-steel forks and spoons
  • reusable drink containers
  • reusable lunchboxes

*With this type of lunch, lunch food items can be bought in larger quantities. The packaging can be left at home for reuse or recycling. Waste-free lunches are not only a wise environmental choice, but they are less expensive as well.



What does it cost to pack a waste-free lunch?

A Disposable Lunch
1 egg salad sandwich $1.25
1 yogurt .85


1 granola bar .45


1 apple .30
1 package of carrots and dip .65
3 plastic bags .12
1 juice pouch .35
1 plastic spoon .04
1 paper napkin .01
TOTAL $4.02
A Waste-free Lunch
1 egg salad sandwich $1.25
1 serving of yogurt .50
1 serving of granola .35
1 apple .30
1 serving of carrots and dip .25
water 0
cloth napkin 0
stainless steel spoon 0
packaging 0
TOTAL $2.65


The Bottom Line

Disposable Lunch

Waste-Free Lunch

$4.02 / day $2.65 / day
$20.10 / week $13.25 / week
$723.60 / school year $477.00 / school year

723.60 - 477.00 = $246.60 savings per school year per person



Waste-free Lunch Research

We'd love to add more research topics to this page. If you're involved in relevant research that you'd like us to post, please send it to us at Thanks!


Implementing a Waste-free Lunch Program


Other Research

  • David Darlington of Environmental Education for Kids! (EEK!) conducted a waste-free lunch pilot program at Marylin Avenue Elementary School. The project was funded by the City of Livermore, CA. Waste-free lunch kits were distributed to thirty students in a single class. Families were encouraged to pack waste-free lunches as often as possible. Click here to see their results.

  • California Integrated Waste Management Board compiled statistics on school savings resulting from waste reductions programs. Click here to see a summary of their results. For more details and descriptions of additional programs, visit their Web site at

  • The Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education has studied the impact of comprehensive environmental education on student learning as measured by the science MSPAP (Maryland School Performance Assessment Program) test. To view this report, click here or visit their Web site


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