When students return to school today, Thursday, Sept. 6, they’ll find school lunches have gone up by 10 cents as the town prepares to introduce new, biodegradable trays in all of the schools’ cafeterias.
The trays are expected to arrive in around a month, according to Gail Koutroubas, Food Services director. Meanwhile, an effort to educate students at the schools on recycling their compostable trays is being formed.
“The company that makes the trays has gotten so many requests that, right now, we’re in a huge back-order situation,” said Koutroubas. “We’re looking at probably a month out. We might buy an alternative tray during that time, and that will also give us time to educate the students.”
There has been some concern about how the trays will be handled. Last week, Summer Street resident Brad Weeden appeared before the Board of Selectmen to raise his concerns over the effort.
“Gail Koutroubas did a great job sourcing these trays and listening to her constituents, and making this green transition, but I talked to [town Business Manager] Sandy Gerraughty, and there’s no provision to take these trays to be composted.”
Weeden’s concern is that the trays, which he said weigh around three times as much as the traditional styrofoam trays, will eventually end up mixed in with the schools’ trash, where it will be incinerated by the ton.
Ultimately, that would cost the town more money than it does now.
In the case of Bancroft Elementary School, tens of thousands of trays are generated every year, Weeden said this week by phone. A significant effort would be needed to ensure that trays at all ten schools are making it to composting areas, he said.
“The trays themselves are just paper. The unfortunate part is that the paper gets soiled just enough so it can’t get recycled,” said Weeden. “The objective is to get [composting] as close to on-site as possible, and I think the town is sincerely working on that.”
The town likely has around four to six weeks before it starts using the trays, Koutroubas said, so an education process will likely take place before that time.
One option, she said, would be to have students stacking the trays for collection by Andover workers.
“There wouldn’t be a lot of education going into that. It could be done immediately,” said Koutroubas. “We have to look at all of the options, and sit down and have a meeting. We certainly aren’t going to be putting them in the dumpster to be added to the trash bill. That would be foolish on our part.”
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