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Here's why we stopped using Styrofoam at school

Centereach school teacher Kate MacDonald with Kidsday reporters

Centereach school teacher Kate MacDonald with Kidsday reporters Miriam Conde, Hailey Singh and Liliana Abrego say no to Styrofoam. Credit: April Mindlin

This year, Mrs. Kate MacDonald, one of our teachers at Jericho Elementary, and her fifth-graders inspired us to reduce the use of Styrofoam lunch trays at school. Her first step to eliminating Styrofoam trays at our school was trayless Tuesday. For one day a week, we use paper boats or trays instead of Styrofoam trays.

We were inspired while doing research that said New York schools discard about 850,000 Styrofoam trays every day. This is very bad for the environment. Mrs. MacDonald found out that it takes over 500 years to decompose Styrofoam and it ends up overcrowding landfills.

The district superintendent showed Assemb. Steve Englebright a PowerPoint presentation that Mrs. MacDonald and students had made, and he awarded our school district a $50,000 grant to stop Styrofoam use. 

Styrofoam has many health risks that can harm humans. For example, when you put hot beverages in Styrofoam cups, it releases a chemical called styrene in your drink. Research done by the National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found the chemical can be linked to cancer, vision loss, hearing loss and lymphoma. 

Additionally, it is a risk to animals because they can ingest the Styrofoam. After researching all the dangers, we are happy that Mrs. MacDonald is making a change here, and we hope to kick Styrofoam to the curb for good.  

April Mindlin’s fifth-grade class, Jericho Elementary School, Centereach

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