15 May 2024

School students doing their bit to save the planet - one lunchbox at a time

6:05 pm on 15 May 2024

If you are using excessive glad wrap around your school lunch sarnies, watch out.

A group of very dedicated school kids could have your number.

It is estimated the average Kiwi gets through about a kilogram of soft plastic packaging - that is anything that is scrunchable like wrappers and plastic bags - every year.

One Auckland primary school is trying to reduce their reliance on packaged goods and their impact on the environment, one lunchbox at a time.

It was lunchtime at Stanhope Road School in Auckland's Mount Wellington when Checkpoint visited.

But before year five students Kyle and Mitchell tucked into their packed lunches, they donned their green high vis vests and - clipboards in hand - began their shifts as waste management officers.

The idea, dreamt up by sustainability teacher Kim Gee, is all about reducing the kura's impact on the environment.

Stanhope Road School

Stanhope Road School students. Photo: Marika Khabazi

Gee said the need to tackle the amount of packaging filling lunch boxes became clear at the end of last year.

"We're coming up to around the 580 mark, so the students did the math if everyone reduces their rubbish by one piece per day, that's quite a few thousand pieces each week, and over a year it's going to make a big difference."

Kyle said it was not about being the food police, it was about doing one's best.

"If some kids don't want to show us [their lunchboxes] they don't have to. We say encouraging words to try to get them to stop getting plastic in their lunch boxes."

Twice a week before assembly, Mitchell and Kyle complete their rubbish run, announcing which class had the least amount of waste. Mitchell said every Friday a green toy rubbish truck was handed out to the class with the least amount of waste as the winning prize.

"We do 3rd, 2nd and 1st place and 1st place gets to have my brother's green dump truck for a week."

The scheme had been running for several months, and quickly became popular. Some students shared tips with Checkpoint for those aiming for less waste.

"Try not to buy stuff at your supermarket that has a lot of plastic on it," one student said.

Another suggested wrapping sandwiches in beeswax wrap. Year 4 student Cole said the best tip was to allow enough time to pack your lunch.

"I always get up early to make my lunch because I have a lot of jobs to do and always grab fruit and vegetables, make a sandwich."

Gee said while the kids cherished the reward of the green truck trophy, they knew the biggest reward was protecting Papatūānuku.

"We really need to think about the environment. My generation probably hasn't been so good at that, and they are going to have to kind of ... make a big effort to try and make things a lot better."

If Stanhope's students RNZ spoke to were anything to go by, they were on track.

"Reduce, reuse and recycle because if you put plastic out in the sea then the fish will eat it."

"If less people are buying plastic more companies will have to stop it because it's not making them money."

"We're saving the environment and if we save the environment there is more future."

The school was hoping to secure funding to take the students on a trip to a pest-free island like Tiritiri Matangi, to show them how this little lunchbox project could have some big results.

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