Almost three years ago, kids in the Environmental Studies Magnet program at a Los Angeles-area middle school started an art project to call attention to their school district’s use of Styrofoam lunch trays.
In response to those efforts, John Deasy, Superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the second biggest school district in the nation, this week announced a styrofoam ban on all products throughout the district.
At a press conference held at Thomas Starr King Middle School, Superintendent John Deasy commended the students for their commitment to the environment, and stated his next goal was to inspire the rest of the nation’s school districts to follow suit.
Hooray for students and teachers using grassroots activism!
The idea for an environmentally-friendly lunch service began when students at the school were assigned the task of carrying around their own trash for one week. Good.is reports that the kids were able to see first-hand how much of their own trash was made up of disposable plastics, especially the Styrofoam trays from their school lunches. To make the waste even more obvious, they built a Styrofoam “monster,” constructed out of the 1,500 trays typically thrown out in a single day.
In response to the sight of all that Styrofoam, and recognizing that Stryrofoam just doesn’t decompose, students began a letter-writing campaign, involving their parents and local businesses, and targeting school board members and district officials. They urged the LAUSD to enact a district-wide Styrofoam ban, and replace their disposable lunch trays with reusable versions.
LAUSD uses about 40 million trays a year. The new paper tray is about 3 to 4 cents cheaper per unit and saves the district about $5 million to $6 million. So everybody wins!
City Councilmember Paul Koretz praised the students, also bringing attention to a bill in the senate to ban polystyrene state-wide.
“Our legislators can take inspiration from the wonderful students and parents of Thomas Starr King Middle School, who successfully called for LAUSD to change its policies and practices regarding polystyrene food trays, making LAUSD even more of an environmental leader among educational institutions,” Koretz said.
Environmentalists say banning the containers would help reduce waste issues, taking decades to break down.
Styrofoam is often mistaken for food or prey by seabirds, marine mammals, fish, and sea turtles.
Wednesday’s announcement follows the 2009 ban on polystyrene food containers in Los Angeles city buildings and a county-wide ban in 2010.
The LAUSD ban takes on added significance in the next few days as state legislators vote on a bill to ban polystyrene food containers statewide. 65 California cities and counties have already banned polystyrene food containers and Senate Bill 568 would expand the ban statewide.
Photo Credit: juliacsmith
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