A greener Leesville

Leesville students will be passing through the lunch line carrying their food with the new molded-fiber compostable trays. The trays are replacing styrofoam plates. (Photo courtesy of Lucy Leen)

The new year means new changes in the Wake County School System. County officials have decided to implement greener options into Wake County schools in 2019. The most substantial of these changes is the switch from styrofoam trays to a more eco-friendly option in all school cafeterias.

The new lunch trays are made of 100 percent recyclable materials that are also biodegradable. According to an article posted to the News and Observer, “Wake school officials say the district, which serves an average of 53,600 lunches a day, is scrapping polystyrene trays because they’re made of petroleum — a non-sustainable and heavy polluting resource.”

According to Jennifer Buck, Leesville Road High School’s cafeteria manager, every day the lunchroom cafeteria fills over 12, 40 plus gallon trash barrels with food waste and styrofoam trays. Before the eco friendly trays were used, the cafeteria staff would do what they could to recycle the styrofoam trays, but styrofoam is difficult to recycle. So, more often than not the styrofoam ends up being sent to the landfill where it would sit and very slowly break down.

Styrofoam negatively affects the environment from cradle to grave. The polystyrene trays require massive amounts of nonrenewable resources to produce. Then, trays go to consumers who dispose of them after one use, and they find their way into landfills where they will remain for years.

Mrs. Lamberth, an AP Environmental Science teacher at Leesville, believes the new trays will have less of an impact on our environment. “I think that the amount of waste we sending out, and the fact the type of material they are using for the paper plates now is biodegradable, it’s going to be much more friendly on our waste system than styrofoam that sticks around for a long period of time,” said Lamberth.

The fiber plates come at a slightly higher cost, but the price gap for the eco-friendly option is made up in the lower costs of disposal and recycling. As more and more people adopt more eco-friendly options, the price to produce them has begun to decrease and approach that of cheaper options like styrofoam.

This recent move by Wake County school officials serves as a model for all individuals in the county that 2019 is the year for people to make environmentally conscious decisions. So far, some Wake County schools and surrounding area schools have implemented compost bins. The bins have already substantially decreased the amount of food waste going into landfills. According to Mrs. Lamberth, Leesville is in the process of implementing a compost at the school. Students from the Future Farmers of America and the Environmental Club will be heading the compost collection with volunteers assisting students in disposing  their waste into the proper receptacle.

Efforts from Wake County to encourage eco-friendly schools will only continue with the hope that students and faculty adopt these efforts in their own lives, to ultimately create an eco-friendly community, state, nation, and world.

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