How to Make Your School Canteen Plastic Free?

Living a plastic-free life should not mean that you compromise convenience and delicious food. I know as a high school student that some days you don't have time to pack food or there might not be food in the house to pack for recess or lunch. A great initiative to run as an individual or as a Green Team is to make your school canteen plastic-free. A plastic-free canteen consists of swapping single-use plastic items to alternatives that are more sustainable which do not have a devastating impact on our planet.

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Getting Started:

Step 1: Educate the School Community

As humans we are extremely resistant to any sort of change so before you start planning to make your school canteen plastic free it is important that the community will embrace and accept the change, otherwise you are planning to have some who may reject this change. Great ways to educate the school about plastic pollution include:

  • Movie screenings such as: 'Blue', 'A Plastic Ocean' and 'Bag it'

  • Placing posters around the school

  • Speaking at assembly

  • Start class discussions about the issue - in religion, geography and science


Step 2: Get School Executive Support

Once the community is ready for these changes its important to get your school executive team on board too, this includes your Principal and canteen personnel. Before booking a meeting with your Principal , have a conversation with the canteen personnel to make sure they support your initiatives.

It is important to clearly advise canteen personnel the steps of action you want to take (education of students, preferred environmentally friendly suppliers and implementation suggestions) and consider their opinions. The canteen personnel should be active participants in the transition to being plastic free.

During the meetings raise and discuss these points:

  • Why -

    • our generation are inheriting a planet that is being distorted by anthropogenic processes

    • Planet is overflowing with plastic pollution and our school should not be contributing to this

    • Help marine life and biodiversity

  • Use facts - Australia uses 3 million tonnes of plastic a year and only 9% ends up being recycled

  • Give alternatives and solutions to single-use plastic - Better Business Partnership has great resources

  • Cost savings

  • Don’t want to be one of the last schools to implement these changes - bad publicity

  • Students may stop buying from the canteen unless these changes occur

  • Set goals you would like to achieve

Step 3: Implementation

For this to be a successful initiative the whole school must be aware and the reasons for why these changes are occurring. With the support of the school executive it is now time to implement a plastic free canteen. Conduct an audit of the canteen and write down a list of all the items that are single-use plastics. Here are some possible options to replace them with.

After finding the different alternatives that your school canteen can offer either contact the supplier and buy the different products and/or encourage students to BYO their own container, drink bottle and cutlery through posters and talking at assembly.


Step 4: Next Steps

After your plastic free school canteen is up and running and you have swapped all the single-use plastic for sustainable alternatives it is important to gather regular feedback from students and teachers.

  1. Survey the students and teachers and seek feedback

  2. Record the data

  3. Improve the canteen according to the comments on the survey

  4. Track the process

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Other Ways to Make your Canteen Sustainable:

  • Change the menu to introduce organic, locally grown veggies and vegan options - reduce carbon footprint

  • Encourage students to bring their food nude (without cling-wrap)

  • Sell reusable products in the canteen or uniform shop