Styrofoam be gone

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Whenever I read about school lunch reform in the U.S. (as I do often), I’m struck by how rarely people mention the environmentally unfriendly disposable styrofoam trays that so many school meals are served on in that country.

I realize, of course, that there are many things that need to be changed with school lunch, and the trays may not be at the top of everyone’s list of priorities. But, really, getting rid of these non-biodegradable, chemical-leaching menaces seems like such a relatively straightforward and obvious thing to do.

But now there’s a grassroots group in New York called Styrofoam Out of Schools NYC (SosNYC) that’s taken on the fight.

According to SosNYC:

“public schools have been throwing out 850,000 polystyrene (Styrofoam) trays per day (except for Tuesdays, as of March 2010), totaling 153,000,000 trays per school year, for over 18 years. This adds up to approximately 3 billion polystyrene trays since the early 1990’s when NYC schools first started using Styrofoam trays.”

The group has calculated that stacked up, the trays would be two miles high—8.5 times the height of the Empire State Building.

And that’s to say nothing of the chemicals— benzene and styrene —(the latter of which has been linked to cancer) in the trays themselves.

SosNYC is working to get kids and parents involved in expanding the successful Trayless Tuesday initiative as well as lobby politicians to get styrofoam out of schools altogether. You can follow their work and support the struggle by going to their very informative website.



Filed under Kids and food, School lunch

2 responses to “Styrofoam be gone

  1. I imagine that most plastic school lunch trays were sent to landfills, where they are being mummified in the anaerobic (without oxygen) underground. Documentation of 25 year old hot dogs, found completely in tact, spurs my imagination. An image of future food anthropologists plucking Styrofoam and plastic lunch trays out of landfills, captures my imagination. Hopefully, technology will exist to extract, recover, and repurpose all the discarded plastics we’ve been dumping into landfills since the beginning of the plastic era.

    As we move closer to finding feasible alternatives to Styrofoam (polystyrene) lunch trays, it is absolutely vital to have a LCA (life cycle analysis) of all considered possibilities, enabling school districts to make the most informed decisions. This requires government support and funding. It is time to move healthy school food service-ware and packaging onto the school food reform agenda!

    Now is the time to educate our millions of students about how food post-consumption issues relate to mitigating climate change. Via in-cafeteria eduction, we can empower and educate children with action and experience, rather than words alone.

    Debby Lee Cohen
    Director, Styrofoam Out of Schools/Cafeteria Culture

  2. It makes me wonder where ALL the plastic trays WENT! Our school still uses them, thanks goodness. Then again, our school still cooks IN A KITCHEN THE SCHOOL! Wonder what all those schools did with their reusable trays.