Last month, we reported that the six largest school districts in the U.S. would be switching to compostable plates to replace the polystyrene trays they have been using for decades. New York City schools are among that group, and the new eco-friendly plates have already been introduced in many schools in the city. On June 22, students held a celebration in Union Square featuring larger than life puppets to commemorate the ousting of polystyrene trays from their cafeterias.
The puppet celebration is a joint effort between fifth graders from PS34 and an organization called Cafeteria Culture, which has been working toward the “end of the polystyrene era” in New York schools for several years. Students brought their “I AM NOT TRASH” puppets and the “NO STYRO monster” puppet to the south end steps of Union Square on June 22. The event also marked the public debut of “Ms. New Plate,” a giant puppet constructed from the new compostable plates. The other puppets are constructed from polystyrene food containers, similar to the ones typically used for take-out food orders, and are sometimes twice as tall as the students who operate them.
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Although the disposable trays will be outlawed as of July 1st as part of a city-wide ban on single-use polystyrene products, New York City schools opted to roll out compostable plates in May, in advance of the ban. As we reported previously, because NYC schools are partnered with five other large school districts across the U.S. in the Urban School Food Alliance, the districts were able to secure competitive pricing on the eco-friendly plates, keeping the cost of the new program within similar margins as the polystyrene trays.
Images via Atsuko Quirk for Cafeteria Culture