You Ask, We Investigate: Push to end use of styrofoam lunch trays in schools

You Ask, We Answer

SPRINGDALE, Ark. (KNWA) —  In this week’s ‘You Ask, We Investigate’ report, KNWA’s Katelynn Zoellner looked into why school districts are still using polystyrene trays.

Research shows polystyrene trays contribute significantly to cafeteria waste. And, there’s a push from parents to replace them with reusable alternatives.

Gena Smith, child nutrition director for Springdale Public Schools, said the school district is mostly foam-free.

“None of our schools use them for all meals on a regular basis,” she said. “Some of our schools use them maybe for one option, but not across the board every day. We use our styrofoam throwaway trays when we are short-staffed or if our dishwasher is down and at times when we don’t have enough time to wash the trays before the ladies go home.”

A tight education budget is another hurdle for the school district.

“At times, it’s a time saver,” Smith said. “And, at times it’s more cost-effective if we must use a throwaway tray, which is why we try to use them less. When there are better options out there at a price we can afford than we try and switch to that.”

Smith said the school district uses alternatives when it can.

“We use paper boats more often than we use styrofoam within our district, but our meal doesn’t always fit into a boat,” she said. “So, that’s why we use styrofoam. We just don’t have a better option at a price that we can afford.”

The Fayetteville School District still uses polystyrene trays in some of its schools. School officials said styrofoam should be completely eliminated by February 2020. The Bentonville School District uses washable trays in its cafeterias. However, school officials said styrofoam is available should a cafeteria issue present itself.

If there is something in your community that you want to know more about, we want to investigate it. You can send your questions to Katelynn at KZoellner@KNWA.com.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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