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Students & Teachers

To Students and Teachers:

Make sure your school gets composting
As of September, 2015, all NYC schools should be getting compostable trays!
Make sure your school uses them and work with your PTA to get a system for composting!

Start a REDUCE TRAY USE campaign in your school asap!
Make REDUCE TRAY USE posters for your cafeteria. Ask your principal if it is OK to hang these up in the cafeteria and hallways. Ask for permission to speak at the beginning of each lunch period  to explain to your fellow students why it is so important to think about every single tray we use. Tell them that NYC throws away 4 million trays per week!

If students are buying one wrapped item and a drink, encourage them not to use a tray. You can also encourage recycling of drink containers in the cafeteria as well as suggest to students who bring "bag" lunches to use only reusable containers, no disposables. NYC makes 12,000 tons of trash per day!

Find out how many trays your school uses per day. Document your school’s progress.
Ask your principal if you can document the amount of cafeteria trash. See if your school cafeteria is disposing of fewer trash bags per day or week by asking the custodian to help you keep track. Ask the cafeteria manager at the end of each week if they are using less Styrofoam trays. We will be so happy to publicize your results on our website so other students can find out about it!

Build a sculpture out of USED Styrofoam trays and display it!
Ask your art teacher if you can build a sculpture out of used trays (you will need to wash them first). Try to construct the sculpture in a prominent place so that everyone in the school starts to think about the  amount of  Styrofoam waste we make!

Ask a local retail store if you can exhibit the sculpture in their store window!

check out Styrofoam (Used) Tray Project: No Tray Left Behind

Talk to your PTA
Ask your parents if you can go to the next PTA meeting and ask parents to help! The students at PS 11 in Chelsea recently convinced their PTA to raise money to cover the cost of switching from Styrofoam trays to biodegradable trays, made of 85% sugar cane leaves. We have the steps posted on our site.

PLEASE TAKE PHOTOS of your REDUCE signs and whatever else you create and send them to us at!
We would like to post your work on our web site and show the DOE School Food office what you are doing!

Write letters to the Mayor and your City Council Representative, include photos and any documentation of trash reduction!
Mayor Bloomberg needs to know that you care about getting rid of Styrofoam in your school.

click here to find your City Council Member

FLIP_TAP_STACK your trays
Reducing plastic bag use SAVES NYC MONEY and reduces the environmental impact of our daily cafeteria landfill bound garbage.

Flip-tap-stack reduces the number of plastic garbage bags used by more than half! Multiply this times 180 school days per year time, and times 1600 schools in NYC!

If your school throws out 8 bags of cafeteria trash per day, that adds up to 1,440 plastic bags per year. Our millions of school lunch, non-biodegradable plastic garbage, sit in landfills, taking many years to decompose. Plastic bags are made from petroleum, a nonrenewable resource, increasing our dependency on oil. Petroleum requires drilling, contributing to the destruction of fragile habitats, threatening our valuable natural resources.

Multiply 1,440 bags per year times 1200 (number of NYC DoE school cafeterias) and that adds up to 1,728,000 bags per year in NYC! Cut that in half and you get 864,000.

Recycle all your drink containers and "clean and dry" paper boats, crushing the drink containers and flip-tap-stack-ing the paper boats to further reduce plastic bag use.

Reduce green house gas emissions
Flap -tap-stack reduces the "idling" time of garbage trucks and all the other vehicles waiting behind that truck

Large polluting garbage trucks pick up garbage at all our schools. If we cut the number of trash bags on the curbside in half, garbage trucks idle for less time while bags are loaded! Multiply this reduction of idling minutes time 1200 school buildings, and this is a significant reduction in air pollution per day.

Next, add all the cars waiting behind the garbage truck, also idling while the trash is loaded into trucks. Sometimes, as many as 10 cars are waiting behind a garbage truck. Imagine that amount of reduced, vehicle caused pollution, multiplied by 1200 stops per day.

Food Waste
Ask your principal to start composting at your school
Hopefully, someday very soon, more schools will be composting their food waste! Food waste accounts for much of the methane produced in landfills, contributing to climate change.

Flip-tap-stack provides an excellent opportunity to educate students on the shocking amount of food waste generated every day in the US.

It is estimated that 40% of the food produced in America is wasted; it amounts to 1400 calories per person every day. According to the EPA, 31 million tons is thrown into landfills. Much of that produces methane as it rots; the gas is 25 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. (Treehugger

Please note: SOSnyc / Cafeteria Culture supports the use of compostable trays when schools are willing to work towards finding composting solutions, as opposed to sending the trays to landfills.
Modern landfills are designed to preserve their contents, rather than transforming them to humus or mulch. When compostable trays (such as Bagasse or sugar cane) and other compostables (like paper and food waste) are sent to landfills, they decompose anaerobically, without oxygen, creating methane and contributing to climate change. They do not break down the way they would in a compost pile!

School-farm partnerships for composting compostable trays?
Last year, CafCu/SOS suggested to PS 89 Liberty School (Battery Park) to partner with a farm for the ”back-hauling” of the school’s compostable trays, i.e., taking used trays back to the farm in their already in-the neighborhood, returning, almost empty truck. The school’s dedicated parent green team took the idea and made it a reality! They partnered with Holton Farms of Vermont, a CSA. Holton builds its farm business and school trays get composted. Unfortunately, Holton Farms is no longer doing business in NYC.

If your school is interested in building a partnership with a CSA, please email us.
For more information, see:
Cafeteria Culture’s The Full Story, Why SOS?
Cool 2012-  Compostable Organics Out of Landfills 2012.

Kids Demand safe trays! Cafeteria Culture

Beginning on July 1, food establishments will be barred from using plastic foam cups or containers, compelling purveyors of curbside cart fare and Chinese takeout, among others, to find alternatives.
The Full Story

When Debby Lee Cohen was gathering trays
from school cafeterias for her Parson's project,
"No Tray Left Behind", she noticed that many
kids were carving their trays with
their forks while eating.
Children sometimes scrape their lunch trays,
either to finish their food or just for fun.
By doing this, it is possible they may ingest
some of the chemical styrene. We, as
Environmental Pediatricians, advise use of
food containers made from materials other than
styrene or choose, as some schools have, to
remove school trays from cafeterias altogether.

- Mount Sinai Pediatric
Environmental Health Specialty Unit

This is an image of a child digging into
her tray with her plastic spork while eating.
Child digging with spork
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