Canadian Plastics

Six of U.S.’s largest school districts dump polystyrene trays

Canadian Plastics   

Environment Materials

Six of the largest school districts in the U.S. will be replacing polystyrene food trays with trays that are made from recycled newsprint and can be turned into compost after use.

The move will affect almost 3 million public school students from New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami-Dade, Dallas and Orlando.

The initiative is being spearheaded by the Urban School Food Alliance (USFA), a coalition that includes the school systems in those six cities.

The six districts project that the new shift will remove 225 million polystyrene trays from landfills every year. Through collective purchasing power, the USFA said, the school districts managed to source compostable plates, made from pre-consumer recycled newsprint, for less than a penny more than the traditional, low-cost foam trays. Compostable trays, under this partnership, will cost each school district just 4.9 cents per plate — comparable to that of the current 4 cents per plate cost of traditional foam trays.


“Shifting from polystyrene trays to compostable plates will allow these cities to dramatically slash waste sent to landfills, reduce plastics pollution in our communities and oceans, and create valuable compost that can be re-used on our farms,” said Mark Izeman, senior attorney with the NRDC, an environmental and public health organization and a nonprofit partner of the USFA.

The USFA initiative is not the first to outlaw polystyrene. Public schools in Washington, DC made the transition away from polystyrene last year; lunch trays in the District are either a reusable plastic compartment tray that is cleaned by dishwasher or made from a compostable molded fibre or paper pulp.


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