Dishwashers and Reusables versus Styrofoam Trays

NYC  produces about 50,000 tons of trash daily – —at a cost of almost $1 BILLION per year for trash collection and exportation.  Our waste, collected by high polluting trucks, is primarily sorted at waste transfer stations located in low-income neighborhoods, then trucked again to out of state landfills, threatening air quality and drinking water, while also generating significant greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

ONE BILLION dollars per year to get rid of our trash!  This expenditure will surely increase with rising fuel pries. Where does it all go?

Spent-Styrofoam trays are exported to Va. and Pa. having had a mere 20 minutes of  purposed life, subsequently to last for half a millennium in a landfill in someone else’s backyard – out of state,  out of mind, or out of most people’s minds.

Currently, there is only one NYC DoE school, the new Harbor School, using a (new) dishwasher and washable food service-ware. Department of Health requires the reusable trays/plates to be washed at 180 degrees. Multiply that times 850,000 school meals per day in NYC and that translates to an enormous amount of water and energy. Dishwashers are expensive to purchase and to maintain. Add the cost of labor, soap and maintenance.

Dishwashers, however, have come a long way in the last 20 years! Energy and water efficiency are key to current design innovations.

Styrofoam (polystyrene) manufacturing also requires energy  and water,  as well as petroleum and styrene, and leaves a long trail of incurring health and environmental costs after its very short lifespan as a single-use food container.

It is time to assess the true costs of Styrofoam tray use in NYC city schools versus reusable service ware (dishes and cutlery) and high-efficiency dishwashers.


About Debby Lee Cohen, SOS

Styrofoam Out of Schools/ Cafeteria Culture (SOS/CaCu) is working to achieve “zero waste” cafeterias in NYC’s public schools by first eliminating the use of Styrofoam (polystyrene) lunch trays. We advocate a Reduce Policy on all single use disposables and promote reuse, reduction and recycling. We accomplish this urgently needed work via alternative messaging, interdisciplinary education, collaboration, and innovative community and design-based advocacy.
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