Middle School Kids Win the Fight for a Styrofoam Ban in Their Schools

An art project inspired students to campaign for more eco-friendly choices in schools.

Styrofoam ban
Middle school activists successfully lobby for a styrofoam ban in LAUSD schools. (Photo: Southern Stock/Getty Images)
A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades has previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and a medical writer.

Almost three years ago, kids in the Environmental Studies Magnet program at a Los Angeles-area middle school started an art project to call critical attention to their school district’s use of Styrofoam lunch trays. In response to those efforts, this week the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) announced a styrofoam ban on all products, KTLA reports.

According to Good.is, the idea for an environmentally-friendly lunch service began when students at Thomas Starr King Middle School were assigned  the dubious task of carrying around their own trash for one week.  The site reports that the kids were able to see first-hand how much of their own trash was made up of disposable plastics, especially the Styrofoam trays from their school lunches. To showcase these nonrecyclable trays, they built a Styrofoam “monster," constructed out of the 1,500 trays typically thrown out in a single day.

In response to the sight of all that Styrofoam, students began a letter-writing campaign, involving their parents and local businesses, and targeting school board members and district officials. They urged the LAUSD to enact a district-wide Styrofoam ban, and replace their disposable lunch trays with reusable versions.

The wheels of justice may turn slowly, but the students’ continued activism paid off. On Thursday, the LAUSD announced the district-wide Styrofoam ban, and though it couldn’t provide reusable trays, is replacing the old ones with eco-friendly recycled paper versions. KTLA reports the paper trays are actually 3 to 4 cents cheaper per unit. That may not sound like much, but it adds up to a savings for the school district of about $5-$6 million.

At a press conference held this week at King Middle School, Superintendent John Deasy commended the students for their commitment to the environment, and stated his next goal was to inspire the rest of the nation’s school districts to follow suit.

In addition to a styrofoam ban, what other kinds of environmentally friendly changes has the would you like to see in your school systems?

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