Local school switches from Styrofoam to plastic

Reusable, plastic trays being washed at Mt. Pleasant Academy (Rebecca Lamb/WCIV)

By Sonya

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCIV) -- Mt. Pleasant Academy has gotten a little greener.

The school formed a Green Committee last year, and one of the goals was to be more environmentally friendly in the cafeteria.

Styrofoam trays have now been replaced with plastic, reusable ones.

Students are now carrying their school lunches on plastic blue trays and it's a change that everyone seems to be excited about.

"We did a lot of environmental education with the students and taught them about waste reduction, recycling, reuse and reduction, and we saw this opportunity because Styrofoam trays were being used in our cafeteria we thought well why can't we use reusable," said Ansara Piebenga, co-chair of Mt. Pleasant Academy Green Committee.

And come to find out, the school, which was built in 2009, had a dishwasher that wasn't being used so plastic trays were a possibility. The school then started raising money by selling t-shirts and water bottles. Walter Campbell, director of food services at Charleston County Schools, loved their enthusiasm and approved of the switch to plastic trays.

"Because of their efforts they went and raised the money, we went ahead and bought trays for here and bought the racks for here and then brought over another employee so they can wash and dry the dishes properly," said Walter Campbell, director of Food Services, Charleston County School District.

And making sure that the trays dry properly is one of Campbell's main concerns.

"If you don't dry them properly you are going to have 40 times more bacteria growth then on using a Styrofoam tray, so the bacteria growth...I don't want to make kids sick," said Campbell.

But so far, the program is going great.

"The staff is very happy, the parents are really happy, it just feels like why didn't we do this sooner," said Piebenga. "It's the direction most schools are wanting to go that I have heard from other schools as well and we are just delighted that we could be a pilot program for this and hope that more schools could do this also."

And that is Campbell's hope toohe just has to make sure the program is sustainable and can last for years to come.

Almost every other school in Charleston County is using disposable trays at this time.

The majority of Berkeley County schools use plastic, reusable trays, but some of the schools aren't able to because of an overcrowding issue. The county may be able to revisit the issue if the bond referendum passes and they can expand the cafeterias.

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