LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) - A new school year means new changes for JCPS when it comes to the cafeteria. The state's largest district is switching from Styrofoam to paper trays to promote recycling and cut down on waste.
The numbers connected to this project are astonishing, but JCPS said the best part about this is the invaluable lessons it will teach students about caring for their community and their world.
The whole district is implementing this program, but Bloom Elementary served as the pilot school. Just since starting it, the school is already dumping one less dumpster a week and has doubled its recycling.
The switch is getting rave reviews from students.
“The old trays aren’t helping the world. You’re just making a mess, and you’re not recycling,” fifth grader Serenity Keene said. “With the new trays, it’s better because you recycle, and you won’t have to worry about killing trees. I think it’s amazing, and it’s awesome for Bloom Elementary to do something to help our city and the world. My grade would be an A+.”
“Sometimes liquids would soak through them and our forks would poke holes in them [with the old trays],” fifth grader Jack Chenoweth said. “It’s way better for the environment, 10 out of 10.”
It's not just the trays getting a makeover, either.
"All of the items on this plate are recyclable. Water cups are new in all locations,” JCPS Nutrition Services Plant Manager Dan Ellnor said.
JCPS serves around 118,000 school lunches a day and goes through about 13 million trays every year. The district said the paper ones cost a bit more upfront, but that's money it more than makes up for later on.
"They let us put money into the classrooms instead of the garbage containers because we're spending about half as much on the disposal of these as we would on a typical foam tray,” JCPS COO Mike Raisor said.
All of that trash used to end up in landfills.
"Landfill space is finite. There's only so much so every little bit that we can divert will help in the future,” Department of Public Works Public Education Coordinator Karen Maynard said.
Now, it all gets turned into other paper products used throughout the region, cutting down on about 400 tons of waste every single school year.
"Switching to waste that can actually be recycled and that will actually go to the recycling center is a huge step in the right direction,” Maynard said.
Leaders believe the cafeteria can be just as much of a teaching moment as the classroom.
“I believe that kids a lot of times learn more about recycling and hopefully teach that to their parents at home. So, if this is something that’s becoming a big topic in the schools, then they can bring that home as well and hopefully recycle more there,” Maynard said.