Thanks to 4-H’ers, lunch is served... on compostable trays!

4-H members are helping the environment with a change coming to their school cafeteria. They are calling to add compostable trays to the lunch line in place of Styrofoam.

Lunch is served at Dickson County High School-- pizza, broccoli, and fruit. But often we pay little attention to what the food is served on. In this case, Styrofoam trays that are not what you would call environmentally friendly.

Things from styrofoam typically are used once, and then take forever to be done.

A student at the high school, Sophie Perrigin, states, “Now that we’re on the Styrofoam trays, we’re like this is so terrible for the environment, and nowadays, especially with COVID, other restaurants and stuff, they use the reusable stuff.”

A shout out to the inventors of the Styrofoam products. They are built to last. Roughly 500 years, maybe longer. Dickson County High school goes through about 78,000 of these every year

Senior Hayden Reynolds found a bunch of these Styrofoam trays one day by the cafeteria dumpster.

According to Reynolds, “There were possibly 100 bags. They weren’t inside the dumpster. They were just on the ground, and they were full of these polyurethane trays. There’s got to be a better way to do this. Not only does it look bad or is bad, it smells bad.”

Hayden and other students are part of an effort to replace Styrofoam with compostable trays.

The project is with Youth Leadership Dickson County-- a 4-H program about service opportunities for high school students, and a partnership with UT Extension and the school system.

“These opportunities focus on civic engagement, leadership, community service, and really allowing youth to grow and have those leadership skills that they’ll then take to the workforce as they prepare to transition into adulthood,” UT Extension’s Hunter Isbell states.

“I think it’s important because it builds leadership skills, and we’re making a difference in our community, and that’s really helpful,” student Caroline Choate explains.

Compostable trays make a lot of sense, for the planet, and a way to get young people involved-- a message teacher Valerie Littleton sends to her students.

“I want these kids to learn that they can make a change, and they can make it in a positive way, and I think that’s probably right now really more important than it has been in a while,” she states.

Along with new trays here, comes a fresh belief. As a young person, you can impact the world around you. It can start in the school cafeteria and go from there.