With encouragement from the student leaders of the Environmental Club, the San Benito High School Board of Trustees adopted a resolution Feb. 12 to end the use of polystyrene foodware on campus.
Commonly referred to as Styrofoam, polystyrene is difficult and expensive to recycle and can contain toxic chemicals such as styrene and benzene, which are neurotoxins.
“While safe to use as a plate or a cup for food consumption, the produce can release these toxins when it becomes heated” as they are burned or melted down, said SBHS Food Supervisor Jim Lewis. He said the cafeteria used Styrofoam bowls for soups, salads and yogurt, and foam cups for beverages. “We are proud to say that we are now using eco-friendly paper goods for all of our food and beverage needs,” Lewis said. The new heavyweight paper goods are renewable and compostable.
In a statement from the Environmental Club, co-presidents Shelby O’Neil and Ian Sills said the club is “elated” about the ban and thanked SBHS principal Adrian Ramirez and Superintendent Shawn Tennenbaum “for their assistance in this project.
Sills, who has been accepted to Stanford University, and O’Neil, who founded the nonprofit Jr. Ocean Guardians to teach schoolchildren about the importance of oceans, said the Environmental Club “recognizes the necessity of teaching students how to live sustainably.”
“A major part of living a sustainable life is using sustainable materials,” the student leaders said in their announcement. “Consequently, the Environmental Club has pursued this polystyrene ban since the beginning of the school year in order to avert the use of this harmful and environmentally detrimental material on campus.”
Lewis said all bins in the cafeteria and around campus will be clearly marked and accessible to make sure students are recycling the environmentally friendly food and beverage containers.
“Unlike most footprints that blow away in the wind and become unnoticed, this footprint will be sure to have a lasting impact on future students and generations at San Benito High School.”