In the Trash: Windsor Terrace School Tosses Styrofoam Trays
As we reported yesterday, PS 154 in Windsor Terrace became the first school in New York City to ban the use of styrofoam trays and substitute eco-friendly trays made from a sugar cane fiber known as Bagasse. Whereas styrofoam is a petroleum-based product that takes tens of thousands of years to break down, the cane fiber trays decompose within 45 days. City schools use 850,000 trays a day or four million every week, so a switch to an eco-friendly alternative would actually make a significant environmental contribution. The press event announcing the pilot program featured Council Member Bill de Blasio along with students and parents. Mr. de Blasio said that "It is deeply troubling that the DOE knowingly purchases and uses million of styrofoam trays a year despite the fact that styrofoam is extremely harmful to our environment and creates massive amounts of waste." A bit more from the Council Member's press release:
Polystyrene, more widely known as styrofoam, is composed of Benzene, Styrene and Ethylene. Styrofoam is a licensed trademark of its manufacturer, the Dow Chemical Company. Benzene and Styrene are both listed on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s hazardous substance list. Styrofoam does not biodegrade; it crumbles into fragments that have no expiration date. Styrofoam trays, as they fall apart, prevent other trash from decomposing.Styrene, a basic building block of polystyrene, is considered a possible carcinogen. Toxic chemicals can leak out of the products into the food that they contain (especially when heated in a microwave). Per the press release: "These chemicals threaten human health and reproductive systems. These products are made with petroleum, a non-sustainable and heavily polluting resource."
Councilmember de Blasio has also introduced legislation, Intro 609, which would prohibit the use of styrofoam by City agencies and food establishments. The cities of Berkeley, California and Portland Oregon were some of the first to prohibit polystyrene food packaging. Due to public pressure, Mcdonald's stop using polysterene packaging in 1990.