Dallas ISD bids goodbye to lunch trays, says hello to compostable meal plates

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The Dallas Independent School District is among six large school districts nationwide that will start rolling out the use of compostable round plates at cafeterias this month, saying good-bye to polystyrene trays.

The new lunch trays will allow students to eat their food off of plates like they do at home, replacing the institutional rectangular lunch tray. As importantly, the new trays are produced from pre-consumer recycled newsprint and will be composted, reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills.

The Urban School Food Alliance, a coalition of Dallas ISD and some the largest school districts in the United States including New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami-Dade and Orlando, have worked together to challenge industry to develop an innovative and affordable environmentally-friendly round plate.

The Alliance school districts serve 2.5 million meals a day and project to remove 225 million polystyrene trays from landfills every year. Polystyrene trays average about 4 cents apiece, compared to its compostable counterpart, which averages about 12 cents each. Given the extremely tight budgets in school meal programs, affording compostable plates seemed impossible until the Urban School Food Alliance districts used their collective purchasing power to innovate a compostable round plate for schools at an affordable cost of nearly 5 cents each.

“These cities are teaching kids that sustainability and smarter choices can be integrated into every part of your daily life – even your lunch,” said Mark Izeman, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the nation’s leading environmental and public health organizations. “Shifting from polystyrene trays to compostable plates will allow these cities to dramatically slash waste sent to landfills, reduce plastics pollution in our communities and oceans, and create valuable compost that can be re-used on our farms.”

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