MCPS introduces recyclable lunch trays

Oct. 12, 2014, 4:15 p.m. | By Arthi Vijaykumar | 6 years ago

Cardboard lunch trays have replaced Styrofoam in MCPS cafeterias

Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) has made the switch from Styrofoam lunch trays to new recyclable ones, beginning this school year. The cardboard trays made their way to Blair during the week of September 15.

In addition to bringing the new trays to schools, the MCPS School Energy and Recycling Team is working with schools across the county to guarantee that the trays are recycled correctly after use. Instead of being tossed into landfills, the trays can be recycled, incinerated, or composted.

The cafeteria staff have voiced their approval for the new trays. Blair cafeteria manager Christine Blanton explained that while the foam trays were better structurally, the positive impact of the new trays on the environment is what matters more. "I thought the foam trays were definitely sturdier," Blanton said. "But, I'm all for saving money and helping the environment." Cafeteria staff member Fatima Begum agrees. "Kids like the other trays better, but we like these because they're good for the earth," Begum says.

However, students' opinions on the trays are mixed. Some like the new trays and their benefits on the environment. "I like the new ones better since they look better and they aren't foam,” sophomore Mekedlwit Berhanu said. Other students believe there are better solutions to the issue. "I think the switch to cardboard trays creates a problem for students because they aren't stable,” junior Jimmy McMillian said. "They should buy a large set of reusable trays and wash them often.”

The main issue that prevented MCPS from making the change sooner was the cost of paper trays. The MCPS Division of Food and Nutrition Services just recently began collaboration with manufacturers who offered the paper trays for just four cents each. The previous cost of paper trays was around 28 cents per tray, more than nine times the cost of Styrofoam trays.

The trays were introduced at the end of the 2013-2014 school year at Francis Scott Key Middle School as a "pilot test" for their use throughout the county.

In the spring of 2013, the US Department of Education recognized MCPS with the National Green Ribbon District Sustainability Award. And over a year after their recognition, MCPS continues to implement environmentally friendly technology and policies in its schools.

Tags: lunch trays recycling School lunches

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