Why have a waste-free lunch? You’ll find all kinds of information below to inform and educate you about the overwhelming number of single-use items that make their way into landfills every day, week, month and year—all to inspire you and your family to pack a school lunch (or work lunch) that's free of eco-trashing disposables. An important (and money-saving!) part of a sustainable lifestyle, a healthy lunch packed and stored in reusables is an easy, mindful way to cut your contribution to waste.

 

disposable lunch

 

OUR DISPOSABLE HABIT

  • The average person with a disposable lunch creates 4.3 pounds of waste every day.1
  • On average, a daily disposable lunch for a school-aged child creates 67 pounds of waste a year.2
  • The typical US family creates more than 4,000 pieces of trash through disposable lunches each year.3
  • Of the 869,000 tons of plastic waste produced in the US in 2014, only 9% was recycled—the rest was landfilled, where it will take thousands of years to break down.4
  • Every year in America, we throw away enough disposable cups and cutlery to circle the equator 300 times.5
  • 4 billion juice boxes are consumed (and thrown away) every year in the US. Conventional juice boxes cannot be recycled because they are made of an inseparable combination of cardboard, plastic and aluminum foil.6
  • Every three months, Americans throw away enough aluminum to rebuild our country’s entire commercial air fleet. The largest source of this waste is beverage and packaging containers.7
  • 25 billion polystyrene (a.k.a styrofoam) cups are thrown away every year in the US. Because it is so lightweight, polystyrene easily finds its way into waterways and eventually the ocean, where it leaches known carcinogens and other harmful toxins.3
  • Just a single fast food chain—McDonald’s—claims to serve 69 million people every day.8 There are many disposable items in a conventional to-go meal, but consider just one—a straw. Using this data, in a year approximately 25.2 billion straws are used one time then thrown away—and that’s just by McDonald’s customers alone.

 

HOW IT IMPACTS THE PLANET

  • Landfilling 121 million tons of waste created each year in the US is the second-largest source of methane gas emissions.9 Methane is a detrimental greenhouse gas 21 times more harmful than carbon dioxide.10
  • Every ton of paper products that is not recycled—like paper towels and napkins, for example—costs our environment 17 trees and 7,000 gallons of water.7
  • During 2012’s International Coastal Cleanup Day, volunteers around the globe picked up: 1,140,222 food wrappers and containers; 1,065,171 plastic bottles; 692,767 disposable cups, plates, forks, knives and spoons; 611,048 straws and stirrers; and 339,875 beverage cans.11
  • Every year, it requires more than 17 million barrels of oil to manufacture enough plastic bottles to meet demand in the U.S. for disposable water bottles.12
  • When plastic, like that used to make cutlery, bottles, baggies and straws, begin to break down, it doesn't biodegrade; it photodegrades. Chemical bonds in the material break apart, and the material fragments into small, toxic pieces that easily contaminate waterways, soil and animals upon digestion.13

 

THE SOLUTION

  • The best solution is to promote and embrace a cultural shift away from single-use items and habits.
  • Rather than using plastic or paper items that will be thrown away after only one use, invest in innovative, reusable alternatives like containers, bottles, bags, baggies, utensils and cloth napkins.
  • When you buy in bulk and use durable, reusable containers that will last years rather than disposable sandwich wraps, chip bags, fruit salad or pudding cups, you’re not only making an eco-friendly choice—you’re making a practical, cost-saving choice, too.
  • Packing a waste-free lunch can save you $250 or more (per person) in a school year.2

Check out our huge selection of long-lasting, functional reusables especially designed to make waste-free lunch as simple, user-friendly and sustainable as can be.

 

disposable lunch eating

 

Sources: 1 - https://center.sustainability.duke.edu/resources/green-facts-consumers/how-much-do-we-waste-daily 2 - http://www.wastefreelunches.org/ 3 - http://ecolunchboxes.com/facts/ 4 - http://www.nea.gov.sg/energy-waste/waste-management/waste-statistics-and-overall-recycling 5 - http://www.earth911.com/food/recycling-to-go-plastics/ 6 - http://www.sierraclubgreenhome.com/featured/careful-where-you-toss-that/ 7 - http://www.epa.gov/osw/education/quest/pdfs/sections/u2_chap2.pdf 8 - http://www.mcdonalds.com/us/en/our_story.html 9 - https://center.sustainability.duke.edu/resources/green-facts-consumers/how-much-do-we-waste-daily 10 - http://livelifegreen.com/landfills-and-th-environmental-effects/ 11 - http://www.oceanconservancy.org/our-work/international-coastal-cleanup/top-10-items-found-1.html 12 - https://www.banthebottle.net/bottled-water-facts/ 13 - http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/earth/oceanography/great-pacific-garbage-patch1.htm