West Middle School should stop using styrofoam lunch trays!

Ava Boccarossa and Annabelle Troyer

Styrofoam is one of the most harmful substances to us on our planet. Unfortunately, approximately 200 styrofoam plates are used at West Middle School each day! 

Styrofoam is made of styrene, a chemical with ties to cancer, and puffed plastic. The chemicals can enter your body when you touch it. When they evaporate, we breathe it in and it is harmful to our lungs. It can also damage the earth’s ozone layer, which protects us from the sun’s UV rays. If you have warm food or liquids in styrofoam containers, the chemicals can migrate into them. When styrofoam ends up in a landfill, it takes hundreds of years to break down. Its chemicals remain in the soil for years (https://www.baltimoresun.com and https://greendiningalliance.org).

The pros of styrofoam plates are that they are very cheap, at only 3.5 cents per tray. They can be easily disposed of, and are very light. The cons of styrofoam are they do not biodegrade, they are not able to be recycled, and are harmful to ourselves and the environment. 

Bio-degradable plates are a good alternative to styrofoam. they can break down into the earth in a short period of time. They become part of the soil and do not harm the environment. Bio-degradable plates don’t need to be washed and can be disposed of easily. There is one problem: Bio-degradable plates are more expensive. On one website, they are nine cents per plate (https://www.webstaurantstore.com).

Why do we have styrofoam at West? We interviewed Ms. Becky the lunch many said that West uses approximately 200 styrofoam plates a day. We use them because “nobody wants to stay and wash dishes. The styrofoam plates are more economical” She stated that bio-degradable plates would “have to be cost-effective” if the school district is going to use them. 

There are many different options to styrofoam trays, but they all have negatives with their positives. One solution is to get washable plates to be reused, this would solve the problem of styrofoam but create another. It would take a lot of work to wash all the dishes, but even if we got dishwashers we would use way too much water, which would be expensive and waste our water supply. Another solution is biodegradable plates, These would be perfect, but they are much more expensive, they cost 5.5 cents more. This doesn’t seem like much of a difference, but it adds up. For example, 500 plates of styrofoam cost $17.50, and 500 biodegradable plates cost $45. 

Some cities and states are taking responsibility for their planet and have banned styrofoam. Seattle, San Francisco, Portland, and Washington D.C. all have banned it. In some schools in New York, there are “Trayless Tuesdays.” This has reduced the amount of styrofoam used at that school by about 20%.

It is estimated there are 270 metric tons of plastic marine pollution, which includes styrofoam. If we get rid of styrofoam at our school, it will a small step for making the world a better place.  


Works Cited


Polystyrene Fact Sheet: 8 reasons to ban Styrofoam | Green Dining Alliance

FAQs – Getting Styrofoam Out of Schools – Cafeteria Culture

Maryland is poised to become the first state to ban foam food packaging