Education

Miami-Dade school cafeterias go green with paper plates

The country’s largest school districts, including Miami-Dade County, are ditching foam trays for compostable plates.
The country’s largest school districts, including Miami-Dade County, are ditching foam trays for compostable plates. AP FILE

School lunch trays are getting a makeover in the name of the environment.

The country’s largest school districts — including the fourth largest, Miami-Dade County — are ditching Styrofoam trays for more environmentally-friendly compostable plates.

The round plates will feel less industrial, are made of pre-consumer recycled newsprint and feature a cup holder in the middle to make them easier to carry, according to the Urban School Food Alliance. The alliance, made up of the six largest school districts, combine their buying power to provide healthier food and more environmentally-sound products in schools.

School cafeterias tend to use polystyrene trays because they are typically cheaper: four cents compared with about 12 cents for compostable products, according to the alliance. The new plates, which will debut this month, will be comparable in price to Styrofoam products and the move is expected to prevent 225 million trays from reaching landfills every year.

"Together, we developed a quality sustainable product that will be strategically used in our cafeterias to be ecologically sound and maintain effective business practices," Penny Parham, Miami-Dade’s administrative director of Food and Nutrition said in a press release. “We are proud of the opportunity we have created."

In December, alliance districts announced they would serve only antibiotic-free chicken in schools. Their next goal: to rid school cafeteria of half-spoon, half-fork cutlery called “sporks,” and to replace them with compostable utensils kids will prefer to use.

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