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Litterless lunchboxes a healthy choice


As many households will know, school mornings can be chaotic as parents and children rush to get ready for the day ahead.

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However, with a bit of forward planning Hannah Smailes is hoping that in 2022 families will pay closer attention to what is being packed into school lunchboxes and by doing so, reduce their impact on the environment.

Launching her latest project, Litterless Lunchboxes, the Cabra Dominican College Year 12 student is committed to educating primary school students about the issues their single-use lunchbox plastics (chip packets, wrappers) are creating, while providing them with some effective solutions.

“Every year the average Aussie school kid is creating 30kg of waste from their lunchboxes alone, and this is resulting in so much damage to our planet,” she said.

“Going litterless not only has incredibly positive impacts on the planet and climate, but is also healthier and much more affordable.

“I’d love parents to have their eyes opened to the issue and my project so that they can work with their kids to have a new level of mindfulness around lunchbox waste.”

For her Research Project last year Hannah investigated litterless lunchboxes, interviewing teachers, primary school students and parents to get their perspective on why plastic packaging is so widely used. Unquestionably, the number one reason given was ‘convenience’, so Hannah set about creating a free digital toolkit to provide solutions and change habits.

Some of these solutions include bulk buying of ingredients that can be stored in containers from home and bulk baking of lunchbox items, for convenience and affordability.

Hannah also recommends that any packaging should be recyclable and reusable, and a good tip is to pack lunchboxes the night before school to avoid reaching for those conveniently packaged, highly processed snacks in the hectic school morning rush.

Education for students and parents is another area where Hannah sees an opportunity to create change and she is also encouraging schools to go “nude food”, even if it’s just for one day.

“If the whole school is doing it together it’s a good community building thing and from that good habits will form,” she explained.

Hannah, who is Cabra’s Mission captain this year and is also a member of the college’s Green Team, said watching the War On Waste television series in 2018 was a “big turning point” for her.

“I realised that plastic waste is such a big deal and we have to do something about it,” she said.

“It’s one of those issues you can’t leave and everyone has such a big responsibility to cut their waste.”

In 2021 the committed conservationist won the Stay Stoked Award from Algalita Marine Research and is planning to use the prize money she received to fund eco projects in the years ahead. She has established the environmental organisation, Sea Good, a not-for-profit platform which she hopes will inspire positive change in Australian youth through education.

A member of the Aberfoyle Park parish, Hannah, 17, said her commitment to the environment was an important part of being Catholic.

“When I read Laudato Si’ it took me such a long time to read because every page there was so much wisdom, so much inspiration, so I was journaling alongside all the time,” she said.

“It really is a good wake-up call that we are not only here to spread love to each other but to spread love to the Earth and be the stewards of Earth.

“The way to show our love to future generations is by giving them a planet that is going to be safe for them, a planet that will thrive and flourish.”

For more information about the Litterless Lunchboxes project go to


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