School board urged to buy disposable lunch trays Washables are too costly, report says

August 26, 1993|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Staff Writer

Despite protests from environmentally conscious students, Howard County high schools and middle schools likely will continue using disposable lunch trays this school year.

The bottom line is the bottom line: Disposable, recyclable lunch trays are more sanitary and less costly than washable trays, according to a report scheduled to be presented at today's county Board of Education meeting.

"Because we are a throw-away generation, many of the [high school] students don't see that the trays can be washed and they throw them out," said Mary Klatko, food services supervisor for county schools.

The disposable lunch trays are made of recyclable polystyrene and cost less -- 3 cents each, compared with $2.41 each for washable trays, saving almost $44,000 in labor, electricity and maintenance costs if all eight high schools used polystyrene trays.

Student environmentalists from several high schools had protested at a school board meeting last year, asking school officials to stop a polystyrene recycling program and instead use washable trays. Superintendent Michael E. Hickey had appointed the 26-member committee to look into the idea.

Only elementary school students now use washable trays. A 1990 pilot program to use washable trays at two high school and five middle schools failed because students lost or threw away the trays. Both high schools and three middle schools returned to using disposable trays.

"At the elementary school, the students return them to the return window," Ms. Klatko said.

Another effort in 1991 to use washable trays in one middle and one high school also failed because of tray loss -- 170 at the middle school and 445 at the high school.

Last year at Mount Hebron High School, where washable trays were used, students were good about returning them in the beginning, but interest and effort waned, said the school's former principal, Edgar Markley. "At first, we had good response. But as the weeks went on, kids would leave their trays or not leave them where they should be."

This school year, the school system and county government are joining forces to launch a recycling awareness program to educate students and their parents about reducing trash.

"We're trying to teach the residents and especially the children that they can make a difference with their environment," said Betsy McMillon, the county's recycling coordinator.

Ms. McMillon said her office will concentrate its education effort at the elementary school level.

"Once you teach your children a certain behavior, it continues growing with them," she said. "The high school students have been trained all these years to throw things away. Ten years from now, we won't be having [recycling] problems with the high school students."

But her office will also work to help start a voluntary recycling program for high school students, a service-oriented project that would allow them to earn community service hours required for hTC graduation.

Ms. McMillon envisions a program in which students will be trained as demonstrators to go out into the community to teach and show residents how to recycle.

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