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South Carolina looks to compost trashy lunch trays


A South Carolina middle school is experimenting with lunch trays made out of bamboo and sugar cane to see if they might be the answer to the millions of Styrofoam trays the state's public schools send to the landfill each year. WFAE's Julie Rose reports: There's been a trend in public schools over the last decade to trade washable plastic lunch trays for disposable ones made of Styrofoam. About half of South Carolina's public schools use those trays, according to Education Department spokesman Pete Pillow. He says it's because they're cheaper and easier. "Remember, you've got to heat that water to a certain temperature. You've got to have the suds and the soap," says Pillow. "If you're feeding a thousand students a day that's an awful lot of dishes to be washing to be washing according to all the state health regulations." And that requires someone washing dishes pretty much full-time, says Pillow. But the cost savings come with environmental consequences. Pillow says South Carolina schools dump about 40-million Styrofoam lunch trays in the landfill each year. Over the next six weeks, Hand Middle School in Columbia will try out disposable trays made from bamboo and sugar cane that will then be chipped into pieces for the city's compost. The bamboo trays cost about three times the Styrofoam ones, but will save the school landfill fees. If it proves cost effective enough, Pillow says the state will consider using the trays in more schools. The majority of Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools avoid the landfill problem by continuing to wash plastic lunch trays.