There is a story from the Apollo/Soyuz years of the space program, where the American astronaut told his cosmonaut colleague of the millions NASA invested in zero gravity ball-point pens. The Soviets used pencils.
Think of the savings in money, resources and landfill if the school lunch program washed and reduced the old hard plastic or metal trays?
L.A. UNIFIED REPLACES PLASTIC FOAM CAFETERIA TRAYS WITH PAPER ONES: The districtwide switch to recyclable paper trays was sparked by students at one middle school who were studying the effects of trash on the environment.
By Frank Shyong, Los Angeles Times | http://lat.ms/MRbS30
<< Students at Thomas Starr King Middle School in Los Feliz look up at a sculpture they made of 1,260 plastic foam cafeteria trays. The nonbiodegradable trays are being replaced with paper ones. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times / August 23, 2012)
August 24, 2012 :: Lunch items in the Los Angeles Unified School District have been in flux in recent years — for example, swapping pizza for whole-grain spaghetti — but the sagging plastic foam tray that carried the food survived for decades.
That changed too earlier this month, when the foam was switched out for recyclable paper trays at all district schools.
District and city leaders made it official during a Thursday lunch-hour announcement at Thomas Starr King Middle School in Los Feliz, where two years ago the activism of some sixth-graders kicked off the effort to ban plastic foam trays.
Martin Gonzalez, 13, said it all started in Ann Holtzinger's sixth-grade class. They were studying the effects of trash on the environment, and the students learned that the cafeteria's plastic foam trays weren't being recycled. They raised money to buy their own bright yellow reusable plastic trays.
"It was weird at first, but you get used to it," Gonzalez said. "I think some people were actually jealous."
Groups of students also stationed themselves near trash cans and plucked used plastic foam trays from the hands of other students before they could be trashed.
"Yeah, it was gross," said Desiree Laguna, 13.
Then the class strung together 1,260 of the discarded trays and hung them from a giant acacia tree in the center of campus.
That got everyone's attention, said David Binkle, the district's deputy food services director.
"The students made a statement, we looked at it, and they're right," Binkle said.
The district uses about 40 million trays a year. The new paper tray is about 3 to 4 cents cheaper per unit and saves the district about $5 million to $6 million, Binkle said. King Middle and every other school in the district have now adopted the compostable paper trays.
LAUSD to ban Styrofoam food trays at all school campuses
City News Service, From Contra Costa News/LA Daily News | http://bit.ly/OAyMKe
8/23/2012 :: LOS ANGELES - Superintendent John Deasy told students at a Los Feliz middle school on Thursday that, thanks to their campaign, Styrofoam food trays will be banned at all Los Angeles Unified School District campuses.
The school district joins municipalities across California, including the city and county of Los Angeles, that have banned polystyrene food containers in government buildings. Los Angeles banned their use in city buildings in 2009, and the county followed suit in 2010.
Deasy visited Thomas Starr King Middle School on Fountain Avenue in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles to announce the ban.
"We want to be custodians of not only doing right by students but by the planet they will inherit," Deasy said. "We have to give students the best gifts we can -- education and an environmental lead."
Thomas Starr King students and parents pushed the school district to phase out containers made of polystyrene, which is hard to recycle and takes hundreds of years to decompose. Students even built a sculpture in the school's garden made out of Styrofoam food trays.
Los Angeles Councilman Paul Koretz also visited the school and called for support of legislation banning polystyrene containers statewide.
"With 65 municipalities throughout California banning Styrofoam, it's time for a sensible statewide solution to the environmental harm caused by polystyrene products," Koretz said.
"... Our legislators can take inspiration from the wonderful students and parentsof Thomas Starr King Middle School, who successfully called for LAUSD to change its policies and practices regarding polystyrene food trays, making LAUSD even more of an environmental leaders among educational institutions."
Opponents of the proposed statewide ban, including the California Restaurant Association and American Chemistry Council, argue that it would increase costs for businesses that need to find alternative packaging, leading to higher costs for consumers.
These ban opponents also contend that some alternative packaging materials are not effective and are not easily recycled when soiled by food products, meaning a Styrofoam ban would have little environmental benefit.