Children are the next generation and it is important they are well informed so they can make sustainable decisions. Our previous work highlighted that consumers are typically confused and lack knowledge about disposing of food packaging sustainably – and that targeted approaches could help overcome this knowledge gap.

Two children's drawings, in pencil and orange felt tip, of 'superhero recycling bins. The bins have faces and lids open, waiting to receive a variety of waste and recycling.
Superhero bins drawn by children who participated in workshops

The approach

The key message of this project is about educating the next generation to promote a shift in their sustainable food packaging behaviour.

We carried out interactive and fun workshops at various primary schools in the Reading area. Children were provided with an activity booklet along with ten food items and asked to select which bin was appropriate to dispose of each item.

The activity booklets were specifically designed with children in mind to maximise engagement and ensure suitability. There were some fun activities (such as a word search, colouring in and a maze game) that the children could complete if they wished. Children also took part in a competition to draw bins – for example, a bin that could take all food packages or encourage people to recycle more, like a superhero bin.

Image shows the cover of the activity booklet given to school children – which reads 'Let's INVOLVE, INFORM and INSPIRE the next generation on disposing food packaging sustainably' and illustrations of food packaging: a water bottle, cereal, box, packet of cream crackers, tin of fruit, jar of jam, cheese wrapped in wax, apple core, yoghurt pot, and plastic cartons.
Food items used in the activity booklet

Key findings

Over 200 children aged 7 to 11 years old experienced taking part in the workshops. Our initial findings are very positive and exciting; we believe that the children will now feel more confident about how to dispose of different food items sustainably.

For example, over 80% of the children learnt something new on the topic and at least 80% of them said that they will change their food packaging disposal behaviour in the future. The children used words such as fun, easy and interesting to describe the experience of completing the activity booklet.

What is next?

Overall, this project emphasised the importance of educating the next generation to promote a shift in everyday sustainable food packaging behaviour. We hope to publish our findings in a scientific paper, so watch this space!

We are taking part in the University of Reading Community festival on 13 May 2023, where children of all ages can take part in interactive quizzes and learn more about appropriate food packaging disposal practices.

We also have recently received some funding from the John Sykes Community Engagement Fund to engage with secondary school children (aged 11–14) as well. If you are working at a secondary school interested in taking part in a 1-hour workshop, please do get in touch by emailing

Dr Stella Lignou is an Associate Professor in the Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences at the University of Reading.

Dr Victoria Norton is a Postdoctoral Research Assistant in the Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences at the University of Reading.