LILBURN -- A mother's aggravation with the school district for no longer recycling its Styrofoam lunch trays has led her to create an online petition advocating for a change. The document has gained the support of more than 500 others, who feel Gwinnett County Public Schools should seek out a way that's more environmentally sustainable.
A spokesperson with GCPS said that while the district was the very first system in the state of Georgia to start recycling lunch trays countywide, "it was recently forced to stop recycling them when its recycling partner went out of business due to the state of the economy."
Beth Remmes, a mother of two children who attend Camp Creek Elementary, said she hopes that local education officials will consider the options. "We're hoping they can switch to an alternative way such as reusable trays, or trays made from a paper-based biodegradable material."
Added Remmes: "I know that the budget situation is tough right now, but at the very least you would like to see what the costs are ... just to see that breakdown. That would open the way for some creative problem-solving from district staff."
District Spokesman Jorge Quintana said that "as an environmentally responsible organization, Gwinnett County Public Schools has been researching options to improve the current use and disposal of our school lunch trays."
Quintana said that the district has done cost analyses of an environmentally-friendly alternative, but he said it would cost $800,000 more annually that what is currently spent.
Remmes said she wants to see those numbers.
"At the very least I would love to see some transparency at the county level," she said. "I just want to be able to see with my own eyes these price comparisons and I want to know how these decisions are made."
Quintana said that while the current tray system is a "safe, effective option, the school system will continue to research options to improve lunchroom tray disposal. Not only is GCPS hoping to find an alternative that will help the district continue being kind to Mother Nature, but one that the district also will be able to financially sustain."