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As
a district, we use roughly 4.6 million polystyrene (Styrofoam) lunch trays
annually. Just a small dent in the 31 trillion pounds of polystyrene products
created globally each year  — but a dent
nonetheless. With numbers this large, it’s no wonder that a group of students
from Sidener Academy for High Ability Students wanted to lessen the district’s ecological
footprint by finding an alternative material for their lunch trays.Just Tray No

 

A group
of students from the robotics team at Sidener Academy took their STEM project
to the next level by asking IPS leaders to consider a more environmentally-friendly
practice in their day-to-day operations. With guidance from Jim Poyser of Earth
Charter Indiana, these young activists made a difference in their city that
will ultimately make a difference in the world.

 

Did you know that it takes
500 years for a polystyrene product to decompose?
This material is not
biodegradable. When sent to a landfill, it breaks up into small pieces that
choke animals and clog their digestive systems. Not to mention the major impact
that it has on our ecosystem. The United Nations Environment Program estimated that every square
mile of ocean hosts over 46,000 pieces of floating plastic. As a result of
these impacts, several coastal cities across the U.S. have outlawed polystyrene
products completely.

 

Last
school year, the IPS Food Services Department researched alternative products
and found a reinforced cardboard tray that is popular in other large urban
districts throughout the U.S.

 

After
piloting the trays at Theodore Potter Spanish Immersion School 74 in the small
hands of our first- through third-grade students, IPS leaders agreed that the
sturdy but recyclable product would be the best option for our district.
Although the new product will cost roughly two cents more per tray than the
polystyrene option (an increase of $98,000 annually), district leaders have a
positive outlook on the purchase.

 

“It’s
money well spent to have a product that is recyclable, that is attractive and
that students and adults can feel good about having in the schools because they
now can use this as part of their recycling efforts,” said Steve Gudorf, IPS
Foodservice operations manager.

 

Students
of IPS can expect to see the new cardboard trays in lunchrooms across the city
starting this upcoming school year! Because we have polystyrene trays left over
from last year and in efforts to avoid wasting resources, high schools will
continue to use the Styrofoam trays for the first two to three weeks of school.
They will join the rest of the district in use of the new product following the
phase out.

 

We
couldn’t be more proud of the civic leadership that our youth displayed in this
effort; they are a true inspiration!