Most students probably remember the styrofoam lunch trays that were used in the cafeteria for a brief span of time earlier this fall. In order to uncover the motivation behind this move, the Echo spoke to Judy Richardson, the head of the Mt. Greylock Cafeteria.
Richardson explained “The styrofoam trays were used on a trial basis to possibly eliminate labor issues in the kitchen. After several days, I determined that the trays were not conducive to the food items being placed on them. Students were having a difficult time balancing the trays. We are using foam cups for soup instead of paper cups [due to a budget issue], plastic souffle cups for food items and plastic cutlery due to students throwing away reusable cutlery.” The real issue here, however, is the environmental and economic impacts that the trays have on the school.
First off, the money that the school saves by using plastic trays greatly outweighs any inconveniences that maintaining the trays may pertain. The cardboard trays cost $0.09 each and the red plastic reusable trays cost only $3.50 each. According to Richardson, the cafeteria serves an average of 514 lunches per day which translates to approximately $51.50 in styrofoam trays everyday. Over the course of a year, that cost amounts to $9,270. The school could invest in 14.7 reusable trays a day with the money used to buy disposable trays. The school saves $6,995 just on trays in the first year! That amount will keep increasing after each year because the cafeteria will already have the trays from the previous year and won’t need to buy more. The next year the school would save almost $10,000 on trays, money which would be better spent elsewhere. The school could purchase 28 new Dell Desktop Computers with 19 inch monitors for the library computer lab with $10,000. The numbers tell a story, and it’s no wonder the cafeteria has switched back to using reusable plastic trays. With the current budget as tight as it is, any opportunity to save money is welcomed by everyone. Similarly, any opportunity to reduce waste in the school has the ability to affect Mt. Greylock’s impact on the environment, adding another level of reasoning for using plastic trays.