Destroying the environment, one school lunch at a time

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There are approximately 997 students at Lockwood Avenue Elementary School just east of Vermont in a predominantly Latino neighborhood. Every day the students in this overcrowded school eat their lunch in shifts before running off to play on the adjacent playground. Every one of these kids receives there lunch in a cardboard container that is sitting on top of a styrofoam (polystyrene) tray.

While the cardboard container is biodegradable, microbes have yet to evolve enough to have enzymes that will break down styrofoam. So everyday, the almost 1000 students in this school join a significant percentage of the other 745,000 students throughout LAUSD in unnecessarily filling up our diminishing landfill with avoidable non-biodegradable waste. 

It was not so long ago that the McDonald's corporation was made aware of the fact that they were using approximately 10% of all the styrofoam consumed in the United States to cover hamburgers that were already wrapped in paper- the average useful life for these styrofoam containers was less than 1 minute, while remaining in landfills eternally. McDonalds soon agreed to discontinue the use of styrofoam for this dubious purpose and has made some giant leaps since. At the very least, there is a  biodegradable chemical made from orange rind called limonene that can melt the styrofoam to 1/20th of its volume to significantly lessen its impact on landfill.

In the face of global warming and other environmental challenges that are making us every more aware of the finite nature of our natural resources, the deferred cost of something that is initially inexpensive like styrofoam must become part of our future citizens' awareness.

 flickr: bookgrl

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12 2009

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