Plastic off the menu for school lunches in Edinburgh

There have been calls to reduce the amount of plastic in Edinburgh's schools
There have been calls to reduce the amount of plastic in Edinburgh's schools
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PLASTIC bottles of water are to be left out of school packed lunches for city pupils as council chiefs step up the drive to combat plastic waste.

Primary pupils across the Capital currently receive water in plastic bottles as part of the packed lunches issued on Fridays, when schools finish earlier than the rest of the week.

But the council’s environment committee backed a request from Green councillors earlier this year calling for action to reduce the use of plastic.

The council says an increasing number of parents are now giving their children re-usable bottles.

And the authority plans to leave the bottles of water out of the packed lunches and make it optional, allowing pupils to help themselves as required.

A report to councillors said: “This has been communicated to parents and schools prior to the launch of the spring menu, to inform them that water will still be provided upon request for those with no access to reusable water bottles.”

The report noted that the rest of the week the catering service uses re-useable beakers with jugs of water on school dining tables.

It also said work was under way with suppliers to reduce the amount of packaging in the supply chain.

“Suppliers are encouraged to minimise the amount of packaging used on incoming goods, while bearing in mind the food hygiene requirements for the protection of foodstuffs.”

A trial of new sandwich packaging was launched in 12 city schools in March, using “flow wrapped” film, which creates a plastic pouch, rather than a sandwich wedge.

“It is estimated that flow wrapped sandwiches save 50 per cent on traditional wedge packaging,” said the report.

Discussions are also taking place with Vegware, whose catering products are made from renewable or recycled materials and can all be recycled along with food waste.

But the report said: “The main issue is that the cost of switching to the Vegware product is significantly more expensive than the current product.”

The schools catering service is also switching to a new yogurt supplier, with the yogurt packaged in printed pots, made of a very thin gauge of polypropylene.

And work is continuing with a drinks supplier to develop a tetra pack water carton which could replace plastic bottles of water.

“This would dramatically reduce the amount of plastic bottles we currently use.”

Green councillor Mary Campbell praised the progress made so far. She said: “Over the last six months there has been a groundswell of concern about throwaway plastic and schools are the perfect place to turn that concern into practical action.

“So it is good to see alternatives to plastic bottles being offered – that needs to be extended to all the different ways in which schools can reduce packaging and other waste and more easily recycle what is left.”

Tory education spokesman Callum Laidlaw welcomed the change on plastic bottles in packed lunches.

He said: “I’m a great believer in reducing plastic. It’s something we all need to do – and I’d like to see the council and schools leading the way.

“In the longer term I believe it is something that is good not only for the planet but also the bottom line.”

Education convener Ian Perry said: “As an environmentally-friendly council we are always looking at ways of reducing our carbon footprint and actively encourage our food suppliers to minimise the amount of packaging they use.

“We have also drafted an environmental performance framework, which governs our catering policies and procedures, to ensure we maximise opportunities available to us to reduce packaging.”

Meanwhile, the council has said it would cost around £200,000 to achieve Food For Life silver status across the entire school estate. City schools currently have bronze status in the catering mark for eco-friendly food and two - Currie High and Buckstone Primary - have silver. At the moment, the council will only aim for silver at two more - St Crispin’s special school and Nether Currie Primary.