Sian Sutherland, co-founder of the campaign group A Plastic Planet, said that “no one is a plastic saint” but added that the Government should lead the way when it comes to cutting down on single use plastic.
“If we are going to be asking schools to take that action, the Government need to ask their own suppliers to do the same,” she said.
Ms Sutherland said that using plastic packaging for fruit and vegetables is “one of the most indefensible uses of plastic”, since there are so many more environmentally friendly alternatives.
Under a separate Government scheme, free milk is provided for all children under the age of five and each school nominates its own suppliers.
Ministers have acknowledged that individual plastic milk cartons and straws are one of the most common uses of plastic in schools – but said schools should speak to their suppliers and ask if they can find a way to reduce the packaging.
Kevin Courtney, general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “The ambition for schools to be plastic free is absolutely right but the Government has to lead the way.
“All of us with positions of authority have to show some leadership on these questions- the Government should be doing that with everything it is sending to school and really investing in plastic free alternatives.”
A DfE spokesman said: “The School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme provides pupils in state-funded primaries with one portion of fruit/vegetable every school day.
“This Scheme is delivered centrally, and the Scheme contractors are currently exploring alternatives to the plastic packaging currently used in the Scheme.”