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Students help their district recycle 95,000 foam lunch trays per year

The Torrance, California Unified School District is doing its part to help improve the environment by participating in a program that recycles foam lunch trays. Torrance Unified School District in conjunction with P&R Paper Supply participates in the “Going the Extra Mile” foam recycling program. The recycling program teaches students an important lesson about sustainability.

“This program is an opportunity for students to get actively involved in recycling and learning about the importance of respecting our environment,” said Leeza Lindsay, assistant director of nutrition services, Torrance Unified School District.

Nearly half of the 17 elementary schools in Torrance Unified School District are already participating in the recycling program. The district is currently recycling 95,000 trays per year. By recycling the foam trays – often mistakenly referred to as Styrofoam, TUSD schools are diverting foam lunch trays from the trashcans and helping their campuses reduce waste. The elementary schools that are recycling have noticed much less waste in the trash cans.

The recycling process is easy and fun for the students. During lunch, the students tap the excess food from their tray into the trash cans – no washing or rinsing is required. Then they place their trays in boxes next to the trash cans. The next day, a Nutrition Services driver picks up the boxes and brings them to a central location. Finally, a P&R Hybrid truck picks up the boxes and takes them to Dart Container Corporation in Corona, California where it is processed for recycling.

All of the trays go from Dart to a local manufacturer in Pomona, California, NEPCO, who then uses the material to make picture frames and crown molding.

Foam lunch trays are not the only polystyrene foam products that can be recycled. In fact, residents of the city of Torrance are able to dispose of their foam products, with the exception of packaging peanuts, in their curbside recycling bin to be recycled.

Polystyrene foam can be identified by a #6 – PS symbol, often found at the bottom of the material. It has a wide variety of uses, from the large molded blocks used to package electronics such as TVs and computers to food service packaging such as foam cups, bowls and take-out containers.