A new study begins today (14 November), with primary schools in Reading. A team of researchers are running a workshop to find out what key stage 2 children (aged 7 to 11 years) already know about recycling food packaging, as well as teaching them how to recognise and recycle different types of containers and wrappings.

If local primary schools are interested in participating in future workshops, they are encouraged to contact the University of Reading team by email: s.lignou@reading.ac.uk

The project, led by Dr Stella Lignou, is part of EIT Food, a Europe-wide community of people doing innovative research at all stages of food production and consumption. This project is also supported by Reading Borough Council and waste management partnership, re3.

Dr Lignou said “I want to see all families getting into the habit of checking the labels and symbols on packaging before discarding something into the recycling box.

“I hope that the children we work with will go home and take ownership of waste management, as well as educating their own families on how to dispose of food packaging sustainably.”

At the first workshop, children will learn about different types of food packaging and how they can, or cannot, be recycled.

They are then given a bag of food and drink containing items such as bottled water, a cheese snack, some crackers, and a carton of orange juice with a straw.

Every day, for a week, each child is asked to choose one item to open and eat it if they wish. They then make a note in their activity book of the packaging and how they disposed of it.

After the week of diary entries, the children will take part in a second workshop where researchers will assess how much their knowledge has improved.

Dr Lignou said: “Children are the future. They need to be equipped to live in a changing world were disposing of packaging in a sustainable way will become increasingly important, as natural resources decline.

“We also know that children can be great at nagging their parents to do better, so we expect the impacts to go far beyond just those who take part in the workshops.”