Parent upset with district over lunch trays

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."


Fooksie 3 years ago

With all due respect, you must be joking. Class sizes are being increased, teachers are being furloughed or even laid off, and this parent is concerned about trays? How many more teachers would $800, 000 pay for? How many new books, computers, etc., could this money purchase? While I agree the environment is important, I do think that we have much more pressing matters that require our immediate attention. I think we should really think about our priorities, and our children should be first and foremost.


R 3 years ago

I'm SHOCKED that the BoC hasn't stepped in with an ordinance DEMANDING recycling. How can this be?

Obviously the school system has ALSO been shown to be as unable to select haulers as the general populace ... OH the injustice of it all!

Oh where can we FIND the monies GCPS? But wait, they have a resource ... how about it Chamber of Commerce, can you save the day?

Can you use that school tax funding you get to find a solution?


Boortzguy 3 years ago

Sounds like a typical Obama voting Liberal. What happened to the reusable plastic trays that we used way back in the 1900's?


notblind 3 years ago

How much would it cost or save to use either reusable [ washable ] plates or paper plates ?


kevin 3 years ago

Gee, you might have to hire a couple of people as dishwashers. Reuseable trays have been used since the 1950's. The person who is complaining should send their kids to school with their own lunch from home.

Isn't it strange that all environmentally-friendly alternatives seem to be more costly then their counterpart? I guess their is more profit to be made in "green" stuff. Funny many Americans don't mind paying more for "green" stuff but buy China-made junk from the stores since it is cheaper made. And you get exactly what you paid for, plastic junk.

The Feds have already said that foam trays & containers are bad for your health.


MissDaisyCook 3 years ago

Oh the horror! Lady, you need to find a life.


k80bug 3 years ago

Some of the comments are so ill informed and presumptive here. From what I ascertained from the article Ms. Remmes is asking for transparency from the district regarding the cost effectiveness of styrofoam plates. Considering how damaging the production and disposal of styrofoam is, (this is factual, something that doesn't allow for an OPINION or FEELING). The robotic responses here are unfortunately expected and the refusal to use any real critical thinking skills is becoming Americas norm. I applaud Ms. Remmes for bringing attention to this HUGE PROBLEM, As the parent of two children in Gwinnett County Public schools, Ms. Remmes has my full support, and I happily signed her petition. http://www.change.org/petitions/gwinnett-county-board-of-education-stop-using-styrofoam-trays



Don 3 years ago

Give me a gallon of gas and I will take care of those pesky styrofoam trays! You know maybe the cost of water, electricity and the use of soap may be more damaging to the environment that the use of styrofoam trays.

Give me a break this is not work the space in the paper.

Maybe she can start a charter school to do this as I bet she is in favor of the admendment.

Hey lady go pick up the trash that floated into Lake Lanier.


MomofThreeJs 3 years ago

With all due respect, I feel that the commenters have missed the point. She is asking GCPS about alternatives to dumping 30 MILLION styrofoam trays into landfills every year. As a matter of fact, Kevin and Boortzguy, she suggests "Reusable tableware is healthier for kids and better for the environment. If durable and washable dishware is not feasible, we recommend asking your supplier to offer an affordable, biodegradable or compostable alternative." Sounds like she might just be on the same page as you.

Perhaps you might consider reading the actual petition before jumping to conclusions. And I think it's perfectly reasonable to ask for some transparency from GCPS and ask where the $800,000 figure came from.

As another involved parent who volunteers with Beth at Camp Creek, I am grateful for her efforts. And I can assure you, Boortzguy, not ALL parents who signed the petition are "typical Obama voting Liberals." By your logic, one could argue that all "typical Boortz-listening Conservatives" have no regard for the environment or our childrens' well-being.


dav 3 years ago

I bet she is a blast to party with


bremmes 3 years ago

A more accurate headline would be, “Parent Asks District to Find an Alterna tive to Foam Lunch Trays,” but I guess that is not as catchy. Even that is misleading, because this petition is a result of hundreds of discussions over the last few years with parents, teachers, and students, who would like to see a better solution. We felt that it is time to stop complaining and ask the district to come up with a viable alternative.

I am also not aggravated with the school for no longer recycling the trays. As you can see from the third point in the petition, I acknowledge that due to the ratio of the cost of transit to volume of material, the recycling of polystyrene foam food service ware has proven to not be an economically viable alternative. It is not the district’s fault that recycling Styrofoam is not a good business model. However, now that recycling is no longer an option we are asking the district to explore some other alternatives. They are quick to respond and say, the “cost analyses of an environmentally-friendly alternative, would cost $800,000,” but they don’t go into any more detail about that alternative, nor do they give the cost of what the county currently spends on 30 million trays a year; trays that the children use for 20 minutes, and then are transported to a landfill where they sit for 500+ years.

So, yes, we are questioning whether or not there is a better alternative, such as possibly create jobs by hiring people to wash reusable trays. In the grand scheme of things, this is obviously not the most pressing issue of our time, but people who make a difference in this world start where they are, they ask questions, and look for solutions. Right now, I am a volunteer at my children’s elementary school, and I am asking, “Can we do better?”


R 3 years ago

If you read the original Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful trash presentation that's the foundation of our CURRENT plan, you'll see that recycling programs DON'T pay for themselves either.


motherinduluth 2 years, 12 months ago

The world-wide destination Imagination Program (creative problem solving) has an outreach program. I know teams in the past have addressed this issue in their schools without a cost to the schools. Several years ago, the Duluth High School team addressed recycling in their tournaments and researched, collected, and delivered all the tournament generated recyclables to Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful. On a national level at the University of Tennesse, they found that all the lunch trays, utensils, food scraps, etc. are "compostable". And, for breakfast and dinner, the food and paper scraps go in the bins and everything else is washed. Those big washers sterilize huge loads in about a minute with very efficient soap/water. Anyway, maybe one of the current DI teams could solve this problem for GCPS?


CD 2 years, 12 months ago

Okay, so who is the cardboard tray salesman in the family?


bostongirl721 2 years, 12 months ago

Seems like the logical thing to do is to only look into alternatives. Clearly the point of the petition is to find something that is not only cost effective but also good for long term sustainability. Why hurt the earth by continuing to use these trays? I've been out of school for some time now and can say that no school I ever attended used Styrofoam (elementary, middle, high school and college). The irate comments left by those that are mis-informed don't solve the problem here. Do your own research instead of making ignorant comments.


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