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At the school canteen

With a few changes, your canteen can say goodbye to single-use plastic, and encourage more sustainable practices throughout the school.

What you can do

Choose to refuse single-use plastics in your school canteen.

How you can do it

The task of going plastic free in your school canteen might seem like a huge task, but don’t let it overwhelm you because hundreds of schools have shown that it can be done. Start out by conducting an inventory of all the single-use plastic items that are currently used in your canteen. You may be surprised by just how many there are!

These include plastic cutlery, plastic plates, bowls and cups, bin bags, biscuit packets, sauce sachets, teabags, and drink bottles. Keep this list for future reference – in a few weeks and months it will serve as a reminder of the changes you’ve made.

After your list is complete, you can start by choosing one item and thinking of an easy alternative. For example, you could swap a tomato sauce sachet with a large bottle of tomato sauce that students can use if they need. There’s plenty of information on our website about reusable alternatives, and staff and students often have great ideas.

When finding alternatives, it’s best to avoid other single-use products, such as cardboard, bamboo, or ‘compostable plastics’. Instead, swap items for reusable alternatives, such as ceramic mugs, stainless steel cutlery and glass cups.

Once everyone is enthusiastic about the first change, you can start the conversation about picking another item. Through this method, you can slowly make your way towards a single-use plastic free canteen!

Taking the next steps

A great way to continue your impact is to make sure you buy all fruit, vegetables, bread and rolls without packaging. Store them in reusable bread bags or containers to reduce waste.

Some canteens make their own food and drinks to sell to students, to save money and waste (particularly as many store-bought products come wrapped in plastic). This can include baked goods, icy poles, and more.

You can also encourage students to bring their own containers when they make their lunch orders, or provide plates, cutlery, etc. that students can return. If you choose to supply reusable items, it can be a great incentive to give students discounts, house points, or whatever works for your school to make sure they’re motivated to return everything.

This can mean that there are extra dishes to contend with, so you may want to apply for a grant for a dishwasher.

The Impact

  • Reduce hundreds or even thousands of single-use plastics by making simple switches in the canteen.
  • Model important behaviours for students and show them that reducing single-use plastics is achievable.

More ideas

What others do

Glass of lemonade, bunch of straws and a plastic juice bottle

To find plastic free ideas, take the Plastic Free July challenge

Reusable carry bag, keep cups and bamboo cutlery
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