The Urban School Food Alliance, a coalition of some of America’s largest school districts, is making the switch from plastic and Styrofoam trays to compostable plates. The switch is intended to make the school lunch experience more similar to eating at home (hence the round plates) and is expected to save 225 million Styrofoam trays from being tossed into local landfills in Dallas alone.
Speaking to the switch, Mark Izeman, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said, “Cities are teaching kids that sustainability and smarter choices can be integrated into every part of your daily life – even your lunch.”
The new plate is the result of the Alliance challenging the food industry to provide a cheap, environmentally-friendly alternative to polystyrene trays. It’s FDA approved, and is produced by Huhtamaki North America in Maine using recycled newsprint. The plate has five partitions, with a beverage compartment in the middle to avoid accidental spills better than plastic trays.
Polystyrene trays typically cost around four cents apiece, while compostable equivalents cost in the range of 12 cents apiece, making them prohibitively expensive for the tight budgets most schools. The new plate, however, only costs an average of five cents.
Alliance school districts are now moving towards compostable cutlery as a replacement for plastic sporks, and has started to procure antibiotic-free chicken for the coming school year.
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