Lunchtime in the School District of Philadelphia has become a lot greener. Last month, District cafeterias dumped the use of plastic foam cafeteria trays in favor of compostable plates produced from 100 percent recycled paper fibers.
Officials say the change will help keep nine million pieces of plastic foam out of landfills annually. The recyclable trays are also sturdier and hold more food according to the district's assistant food services director.
The change was made possible through the district's participation in the Urban School Food Alliance. Through combined purchasing power, the price of compostable trays was brought down to a level the district can afford.
Polystyrene trays cost about $0.04 cents each compared to an average of $0.12 cents for compostable ones. With the alliance, the district can purchase the recyclable trays for only $0.05 cents each.
“As one of the smaller districts in the Alliance, we couldn’t have afforded to purchase compostable plates on our own,” said School District of Philadelphia Senior Vice President of Food Services Wayne T. Grasela. “This initiative aligns with GreenFutures, the district’s overall sustainability plan and advances the District’s work in reducing our environmental impact.”
The district also plans to extend programming and education around the recyclable trays. Meetings with student environmental clubs are underway to help design a marketing campaign to get the word out about the new compostable plates and how they help preserve the environment. The district also plans a pilot program at Saul High School to compost the plates.