Carter Mosteller

When students funneled into the school on the first day of the 2020-2021 school year at Ridgeline High School, one thing was obvious, things were going to be very different this year. Changes were put in place like wearing masks, splitting the lunches into three different periods, one way hallways and a conscious reduction in school activities. One of the changes was the introduction of styrofoam trays instead of the reusable ones.

One of the biggest issues facing humanity today is climate change, also known as Global Warming. The artificial rising temperatures of this planet are a danger to every species including our own, and could cause catastrophe in the very near future.

 It is estimated that the process of manufacturing styrofoam cups releases approximately 21 million tons of CO2 equivalent into the atmosphere. Anybody that is familiar with the greenhouse gas effect will immediately realize that this is unacceptable. For those unfamiliar with this effect, the greenhouse effect is a process that occurs when gases in Earth’s atmosphere trap the Sun’s heat. This is generally a good thing, because it makes the Earth a comfortable and habitable place to live, but when humans start adding more of these gases to the atmosphere it causes the average temperature to slowly rise. This will quickly lead to dead oceans and melted ice caps if we don’t act.

Styrofoam is also not biodegradable, meaning that these trays will be sitting in landfills and oceans for what’s estimated to be around 500 years. Opposed to paper alternatives that may take a fraction of the time to completely decompose in a landfill, with estimates being around 5 years. Paper can even be recycled and turned into other materials.

According to Foster it’s all because of COVID-19, “…With the shortening of the school day, it also shortens the number of hours it allows our cooks to work… that left less time for them to clean trays,… everything needed to be individually packaged and disposable so we wouldn’t be spreading the virus by reusing things.”

This begs the question, why aren’t we using biodegradable options? Instead of styrofoam trays we should consider paper. Instead of plastic utensils why not use a more eco-friendly bamboo? These may not be as cost effective, but they would go a long way in reducing waste. Foster couldn’t answer this question, because making those changes happens at the district level, but she did say that she would support a change like that, and would suggest the idea.

It is important to realise that the school district has good intentions and was trying to safely administer lunches during the pandemic. It’s disappointing to say the least that they cut corners and didn’t factor in the environmental impact of this decision. Let’s hope the Cache County School District decides to make a change in the near future.