FAQs - Plastic Free Lunch Day (PFLD)
We can’t do a Plastic Free Lunch Day (PFLD) in April 2024 (date TBD). Can we do it on a different day?
Yes! Choose any day for a PFLD, but, if possible, coordinate your date with our free movie screening window during May and April. You can use the movie to engage students and others. And please repeat your PFLD as often as you like! Everyday can be a PFLD!
What if we can’t get rid of all the single-use plastics on PFLD?
You don’t have to get rid of all the single-use plastics on PFLD. Find an easy starting place. Here are some suggestions.
- On one day, Eliminate 1 or 2 Single-use Plastics, such as:
- Straws (organize a “Do we need this?” plastics education campaign)
- Condiment Packets (use refillable squeeze bottles or spoon/ladle condiments onto student plates)
- Utensils (choose a hand-held food menu, or bring utensils from home, or hold a fundraiser to buy stainless utensils. Contact PlasticFreeRestaurants.org for funding).
- Chip Bags (serve by gloved hand onto plates)
- Water Cups (bring water bottles from home or hold a fundraiser to buy reusable stainless cups. Contact PlasticFreeRestaurants.org for funding).
- On one day, have a Plastic Request Day, in which you dispense a plastic item like straws, utensils or condiment packets by request instead of automatically with each meal. This action is part of a national #SkiptheStuff Campaign.
- Conduct a Plastic Waste Audit without other action. This is a fun student-led group learning experience.
- If you have no time to coordinate with the school food director, conduct a plastic Creative Messaging Campaign to inform others about the problems with plastics.
Share your PFLD plans with us! Inspire other schools and districts with your #plasticfree actions!
How can we engage students/school food staff/school administrators?
- Share our short PFLD video!
- Screen our award-winning student-led movie, Microplastic Madness. Sign up for a free screening link, Oct - Nov.
- Conduct a plastic audit in your school cafeteria to find out how much plastic is used & discarded. This is a fun student-led group activity.
- Share documents from our Resource Library which includes cost-savings reports, simple how-to instructions, science briefs on plastic health harms, student contributions.
- Put students in charge of PFLD action (and guide them while following their lead).
What do we do about plastic utensils?
- Bypass the utensil problem altogether by planning a hand-held/finger-food menu only day (e.g., pizza, taco, burrito, sandwich), but you will need time to coordinate with your school food director and staff.
- Offer salad bar items that are finger-friendly with dipping sauce (crudité style).
- See the Dipper Bar Solution (thank you, San Diego USD!)
- Offer utensils "by request only" (instead of dispensing them automatically). Use our signs or make your own. Count utensils used before and again on the day of this action to see how much you reduced plastic utensil use on your action day.
- If your school has a dishwasher, hold a fundraiser to buy reusable stainless utensils; or contact PlasticFreeRestaurants.org for other funding options.
What do we do about plastic cups?
- Ask students to bring reusable cups or refillable water bottles from home.
- Offer cups only "by request only" (instead of dispensing them automatically).
- If your school has a dishwasher, hold a fundraiser to buy reusable non-plastic cups; or contact PlasticFreeRestaurants.org for other funding options.
What is a hand-held menu day?
It's a menu that contains foods that can be eaten without utensils such as pizza, burgers, sandwiches, burritos, egg rolls, and mozzarella sticks.
What do we do if our School Food Director/Manager says No?
- Share our short video to show them how easy and fun it can be.
- Share our website page for School Food Service Directors, Managers, and Teams
- Share our Plastic Free Lunch Day (PFLD) Cost Savings report to show them how much money can be saved.
- Invite them to a class screening of Microplastic Madness.
- Conduct a cafeteria plastic audit and use the results to convince the Food Director to participate in our next PFLD USA–or have your own PFLD on a date that works.
- Talk to your teacher, principal or other school administrator or PTA to enlist support.
Why do we need BEFORE plastic audit data?
By counting single-use plastics that students used and discarded during a lunch period BEFORE your action day, you get baseline data. By repeating the count on the day of your action, you can see how much your action reduced plastic use. See our simple Single-Use Plastic Worksheet and Lesson Plan for an easy to do school cafeteria plastic waste audit.
What do we do with our plastic audit data?
- Analyze the data to see how much your action reduced plastics and how to make future actions more effective. Extrapolate from your data to see how much plastic could be eliminated if you had monthly or weekly PFLDs or if each school in your district had PFLDs.
- Share your data with your team and with the entire school; applaud their action and encourage further action.
- Share your data with your PTA or school board so they will inspire others in your area to take action.
- Publish your data on social media and in your school newspaper.
- Share your data with your city council member and your state assembly/house representative and state senator.
What do we do with our photos?
- Take photos of items, not people (or without faces), then share them with us so we can inspire schools across the country to do what you did!
- Share as above with the audit data.
- Use photos for a student-led creative messaging campaign around plastics.
What supplies are needed for a cafeteria plastic waste audit? How much do they cost?
- Cardboard boxes to collect plastic items (ask custodial staff to save boxes).
- Signs to label collection boxes (cardboard from boxes, scrap paper, or poster board on hand).
- Several pairs of reusable gloves to handle messy items from the trash/bins (bring from home, borrow from staff). If possible, avoid single-use plastic gloves.
- (Optional) Several pairs of long-handled tongs to handle items.
- Blue tarp or dark-colored sheet to put on the cafeteria floor to sort, count and photograph items to protect the floor and to use as contrast background for photos (bring/borrow from parent, teacher, administrator).
- Data Sheet to record the counts (we have data sheets in our audit instructions)
- Camera/Phone to photograph the items as a group and as category subgroup.
As you can see, most items can be made from materials on hand or borrowed from school or home. Save your audit gear so you can use items again in the next audit.
Sill have Questions?
- Check our website: PlasticFreeLunch.org and all of our free K-12 Resources
- Email us: Info@cafeteriaculture.org (but please check website first for a faster response)