LA Schools Drop Foam Lunch Trays

by | Sep 10, 2012

The Los Angeles Unified School District has begun using recyclable and compostable paper cafeteria trays instead of the foam lunch carriers previously in use, the LA Times reports.

The announcement was made last week at Thomas Starr King Middle School in the Los Feliz area of LA where, two years prior, student activism had started the ball rolling on ditching the foam trays, the paper reports.

At that time sixth graders studying the effects of trash on the environment found out that the lunch room’s trays were not being recycled and in response began bringing their own reusable plastic lunch trays. Groups of students stood guard by trash cans and took hold of the foam trays from other students before they could be trashed. Some 12,60 of the saved foam trays were strung together and hung from a tree on the school’s grounds in protest over the landfilled waste, the paper reports.

The lunch tray activism garnered the attention of David Binkle, the district’s deputy food director who looked in to the matter and started making changes, the paper reports.

LAUSD currently uses about 40 million trays per year. Each new paper tray is around 3 or 4 cents cheaper than the foam one it replaces and saves the district between $5 million and $6 million per year, the paper reports.

In November, Starbucks expressed an interest in the technique that Canadian chain Tim Hortons is using to recycle its hot beverage cups into take-out trays. Dwight Whynot, president of Scotia Recycling, which is working with Tim Hortons on the project, said that he got a call from the American coffee giant. The US chain is looking for a way to recycle its polyethylene-lined paper cups by 2015.

In March, a New York Times article revealed that food and drink companies such as Starbucks are increasingly bearing the costs of recycling their own packaging, which they are then turning into new products. As the after-effects of the recession continue to bite, local authorities are short of money and are looking for places to offload costly recycling programs, and companies that make packaging are “logical candidates,” a Starbucks director quoted in the article says. Starbucks, which has a goal of offering front-of-store recycling in all of its company-owned coffee shops by 2015, has developed a “closed loop” recycling system in its Chicago stores.

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