Kids are going green, and not just at home. A cadre of student activists at Piney Branch elementary school in Takoma Park, MD, are agitating to replace the throw-away polystyrene lunch trays used in their public school cafeteria with reusable, washable ones. They've raised over $10,000 towards the purchase of a dishwasher to clean the trays. Officials who oversee the school in Montgomery County, MD have thus far refused to allow the kids to even test out a reusable trays program, saying it is too expensive. But the kids are fighting on.
Full disclosure: Both my kids attended Piney Branch, which is located near the Washington, D.C. border about three blocks from my house, and educates students in the third, fourth and fifth grades. But my son and daughter left long before more environmentally aware kids formed "The Young Activists Club" and launched their inspiring reusable tray campaign.
The kids are concerned because the polystyrene in the trays is a "known neurotoxin and suspected human carcinogen," they say on their website.
"But there's more," they say. "It turns out polystyrene has a high carbon footprint as it's made from fossil fuels. In addition, unlike other types of plastics such as beverage bottles (PET, #1) and milk jugs (HDPE, #2), its recycling level is virtually zero. It is also nonbiodegradable. This means polystyrene that is littered will end up eventually in our watersheds and the world's oceans where it can have devastating impacts on water life."Plus, the disposable polystyrene trays cost our school thousands of dollars a year. Based on 6 cases a week used, we calculated that the County spends $3,497 to supply Piney Branch Elementary with disposable trays and another $1,522 to provide the school with disposable plastic cutlery each year."
The kids, who are advised by two parent volunteers, argue that it would be cheaper, healthier and better for the environment to use a safer alternative. "There are about two dozen communities that have banned in one way or another the use of polystyrene for food service ware. Yeah! We are not alone!" In addition to washable ware, which is the best environmental choice, eco-friendlier options include compostable paper trays. The kids plan to appeal the County's decision and continue to agitate for reusable or more environmentally friendly lunch trays. Meanwhile, they've produced a YouTube video in which they perform the song they've written to explain their campaign. It's called, "Goodnight, Styrene," which they sing to the tune of "Goodnight, Irene." Take a look. Thumbs up, kids!
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