Letter: Ban Foam Trays

My children received notice of an Earth Day poster contest sponsored by the New York State Senate. It’s sweet that the state is encouraging students to exchange ideas on waste reduction, yet no school is required by law to recycle. Many schools  also serve lunch on polystyrene foam trays purchased from the state.

If the Beacon school district wanted to do away with the massive amounts of plastic thrown into the garbage every day, it would have to pay for trays out of its slim budget. Parent-teacher organizations and parents have been trying to institute recycling in the schools but because it’s not mandated, we volunteer at lunch to sort the trash.

Is the point of the Earth Day poster campaign to put the responsibility on children to take care of the earth? Why isn’t Sen. Sue Serino, or any other state senator, doing his or her part? Is the point to have volunteer moms save our planet so elected officials can continue to lack the political will to mandate recycling and eliminate the use of foam in schools?

We need to press the state to lead by example. A poster contest isn’t going to stop the unnecessary pollution of our planet, but legislation will.

Lori Merhige, Beacon
Merhige is president of the Sargent Elementary PTO.

One thought on “Letter: Ban Foam Trays

  1. Good questions. The education of children is riven with hypocrisy.

    One of the effects over the last several decades of inflation and “rising” costs in the economy generally – not limited to the operations of schools – are a range of efforts to reduce expenses. Profits, solvency, and the maintenance of political control demanded this. At one time food was prepared at schools and served on reusable plates and utensils, which naturally were “washed”. That apparently cost too much, and employed too many people, so labor costs were eliminated, and often it’s centralization, distribution and disposable (theoretically recyclable) items that are used instead.

    These cost savings in part were diverted to increases in administrative expenses: high paying jobs for the compliant and the politically connected, less pay for teachers and anyone else prone to cause trouble. In the former Soviet Union this class of compliant eligible administrators was termed the “nomenklatura”. The word is perhaps useful and meaningful today.

    The massive increase in the use of plastics, specifically polystyrene and polyethylene, replacing ceramics, metals and glass occurred not only because they are cheaper to produce, and therefore to procure and then throw away, but also as they are lighter and thus cheaper to transport.

    The massive increase in pollution, recycling and other, similar social costs are termed by economists and by budgetary officers as “externalities” – meaning no one pays today but (almost) everyone pays later in pollution, environmental degradation, and associated health effects. Dr. David Suzuki’s incredulous response to a lumber company’s economists explanation of how trees in a forest environment he was trying to save may be clear cut and felled willy-nilly, at no calculable or relevant economic cost is a classic introduction to the nature of “externalities”.

    We still have profits, solvency, and political control. With that comes pollution, garbage, coward politicians, externalities, and similar hypocrisies. Therein lies the education one may receive.