Plastic-Free School Resources

Breaking Up is Hard to Do!

Single-use plastic is a cheap and convenient way to eat on the go, requiring little preparation and clean-up. However, Australia use 3 million tonnes of plastic a year, recycled at a rate of just 9%.

ABC’s War on Waste has shifted focus towards schools, and students are becoming keenly aware of the challenges we facing due to society’s dependence on disposability and convenience. It is children who will inherit a planet overflowing with waste produced and discarded over decades by billions of people, most of which ends up in our oceans and waterways.

This guide is a toolkit to get school students and sustainability advocates of all ages committed to reducing waste and single-use plastic in our schools.

Prepared with the assistance of Sophia Skarparis, the 2018 Australian Geographic Young Conservationist of the Year, it is based on actions and programs that she and her fellow students implemented at their school in North Sydney.

The school canteen is a great place to start the break-up with single-use plastic. Most canteen products are packaged in plastic containers, cups or bottles and served with plastic cutlery and straws.

Many food items from home are also packaged in single-use plastic, including home-made sandwiches, chip and lolly wrappers, single-serve biscuits or crackers, ice-cream wrappers, and yoghurt containers.

These all significantly contribute to the plastic waste mountain. Replacing single-use packaging with reusable alternatives that can be washed and used again is the best approach. If single-use is a must, then compostable materials such as cardboard or bamboo are appropriate alternatives to plastic.

If you are interested in making your school canteen more sustainable, keep reading for some handy tips to address the problem of single-use plastic in your school.




It’s time to start the break up with single-use plastic in your school!


Create a fact-sheet or poster about the devastating impact that single-use plastic has on our environment in order to get people on your side. Find some strong statistics, visuals to grab attentions, and recommended alternatives and solutions.


Make a note of what single-use plastic items are currently in use, and develop a list of viable alternatives. The main culprits will usually be straws, cutlery, food containers, and water bottles, but look carefully, because there may be others!

Remember to always bring your own;

  • water bottle
  • container
  • straw
  • cutlery
  • handkerchief or washable napkin
  • coffee or slushie cup
  • carry bag



Find out who manages your school’s canteen, and make a time to meet with them to encourage  the switch towards a single-use plastic packaging free canteen.

Keep in mind that other single-use packaging items also use energy and resources to create and dispose of, even if they are better than plastic. Here at Bye Bye Plastic, we believe that bringing your own reusable items is the most sustainable option. Pitch these ideas to the canteen manager.

Plant-based plastics, such as those made from corn or sugar cane, are also an option, so long as they are separated and composted. To prepare for this, you could organise for a  compost bin to be set up at your school, which can be collected and diverted from landfill through a commercial composting facility. This will also eliminate the food waste that ends up in landfill.


Engage your school principal in a conversation about reducing plastic. Suggest incentivising programs to be run, such as

  • plastic free or ‘nude food’ lunch days
  • a clean up roster, where each year group cleans up after lunch one day per week. This will also discourage students from creating so much waste to begin with
  • a waste audit
  • craft activities, such as DIY beeswax wraps, reusable cup decorating, and making tote bags out of old cups

You could also suggest introducing the sale of reusable items into the canteen or uniform shop so that they are easily accessible for students



Present single-use plastic alternatives to the canteen manager, and speak to the canteen or uniform shop at your school and ask them to start selling reusable alternatives to single-use plastic items. Items could include;

  • beeswax wraps
  • reusable cups
  • stainless steel or bamboo straws
  • refillable water bottles
  • reusable bamboo cutlery sets
  • reusable food containers

With alternatives readily available, there is no reason why our schools and canteens can’t become single-use plastic free!


set the right example by always bringing your own, and disposing of your waste thoughtfully

Tell the story


  • Take photos of your single-use plastic free and post them on social media with the hash-tag #hellobyo and #byebyeplastic to influence and encourage others to take part
  • Make A Pledge as a customer to reduce or say Bye Bye to single-use plastic at
  • Create a petition to stick to the wall, window or door of the canteen that other students can sign if they are in support of a single-use plastic free school
  • Educate your fellow classmates about the problem of plastic pollution
  • Encourage your canteen manager to Make A Pledge at to print and stick on the window or door, so that students and staff can see the commitment being made to reduce plastic waste
  • Contact us at Bye Bye Plastic and tell us about your progress! We would love to give you and your school a shout-out for all the work you have done to fight waste and pollution


At Bye-Bye Plastic Hello BYO,  we recommend reusable options over all disposables. If students can bring their own cups, straws, water bottles, food containers and cutlery to school, that would be the best outcome.  The big challenge is how to get people to change from the convenience of single-use to taking responsibility for bringing and cleaning their own belongings.

Think about how to incentivise the activity. Like coffee shops, you could use reward cards to get student to bring their own reusable items. Competitions or just simple recognition can also act as motivators



Single-use paper or cardboard straws

Be creative – pasta straws


Reusable bamboo straws

Stainless steel straws

Cups and lids

Compostable single-use cups and lids

Refusing a lid

Reusable coffee cups e.g. keep cups

Water, juice and soft drink bottles

PET bottles that can be recycled at Return and Earn machines for 10c per bottle BYO Water bottle refilled at the tap or bubbler station
Food containers Bagasse or cardboard food boxes Reusable containers provided by or BYO container
Cutlery Wooden or bamboo cutlery BYO cutlery
Chip/lolly packaging Collect and recycle soft plastics with RedCycle Eat fresh, wholefoods that don’t come in plastic
Plastic wrap on sandwiches etc. Collect and recycle soft plastics with RedCycle Wrap your lunches in beeswax wraps, paper, or reusable containers

Together, we can stop the past from becoming our future

Click here to download the above guide to reducing plastic waste at school

Bye Bye Plastic is presented by Better Business Partnership a joint council service funded by Ku-ring-gai Council, North Sydney Council and Willoughby City Council. This project is also supported the NSW EPA Waste Less, Recycle More initiative funded from the waste levy.