Tray magnifique!

Paper or plastic? More and more, city’s schools are taking paper.

Trayless Tuesdays, the Department of Education’s new program to reduce the use of Styrofoam lunch trays in school cafeterias, is making its debut this month in several Brooklyn schools before the pilot program expands citywide next month.

“This program will help make our schools more environmentally responsible, while also sending a powerful lesson to students about the importance of sustainability,” Schools Chancellor Joel Klein said. “Students will see first-hand that if they each make small changes in their daily lives, those efforts can add up to make a big difference for the future of our city and our planet.”

It’s great … in theory. But the biodegradable trays, made of cardboard or sugar cane leaf pulp, are not necessarily an environmentally better solution because they are twice as expensive, and the raw materials come from China and Vietnam, according to one supplier. Styrofoam, meanwhile, is made in New York State and can also be recycled by the city.

That said, Deputy Chancellor Kathleen Grimm believes that the new program can divert 2.4 million trays from landfills each month. The biodegradable trays are three cents more expensive than Styrofoam ones and would require a separate hauler to take away for recycling. The parent-led group, Styrofoam Out of Schools (SOSnyc), which is advocating for recyclable, single-use paper trays, said that if students can learn to tap their trays clean and stack them, enabling an easier pickup from schools that would not require additional trucks.

Second- and fifth-grade students at PS 59 on Throop Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant were doing just that at lunch on Tuesday, eagerly showing off their new trays while talking about their commitment to greening the economy before heading back to class.

“I like them because it is eco-friendly and it helps the environment,” said Hoxby Diallo, 10.

However, Jada Alston, 9, was less pleased about the size of the containers, which while recyclable, were too small for her taste.

“My food touches and my milk can’t fit in the tray,” said Alston.

Students at MS 442 on Hoyt Street in Carroll Gardens also participated in the pilot effort.

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