Every day there are approximately 1,250 Styrofoam lunch trays used in the Manatee High School cafeteria.
That means 6,000 trays in a week, 24,000 in a month and roughly 60,000 in one school year.
Starting next school year, MHS is looking to implement a new machine that will enable the school to become more involved in today’s “green” society.
“That will be a major step for us given the amount of trays we use each day, being the largest high school in Manatee County,” said Principal Robert Gagnon.
This new step is a part of the School District of Manatee County’s recycling program. Every other high school in the district has already started using this machine and there are a few elementary and middle schools involved as well. When MHS starts taking advantage of this “green” opportunity, it will save roughly $10,000 in garbage, according to Jennifer Malloy, the school district’s recycling and energy coordinator.
Currently, the trays are dumped into trash cans and from there the trash is compacted so it will take up less space in the landfill. With this new machine, there will no longer be any trays going to the landfill.
“Our students have been really good with cleaning the lunch room and picking everything up,” Gagnon said. “Now it’s just a matter of one step forward.”
This machine, a compactor made by Thermo Compaction Systems, compresses and melts all the trays and turns them into flower pots. Each machine costs $8,000. Each high school has two and each middle and elementary school involved has one, due to the difference in student population. After the trays have been stacked, the compactor can take 1,200 trays per cycle. Each cycle takes five hours. The compactor will be used every day and possibly twice a day on Wednesdays due to early release.
Once they are made, these recycled pots will be sold to recoup the cost and expenses of the machine. The pots can be bought by the schools from Thermo Compaction Systems for $10 per pot and then sold for $20. The pots can be sold to whomever, depending on each school’s preference.
Currently, the pots are black and square, however, they can be both painted and decorated to please the eye of the buyer. Thermo Compaction Systems is hoping to also have round pots in the future as well as more than just one size.
Although lunch trays will be the main ingredient, other forms of Styrofoam such as packing peanuts and Styrofoam computer boxes can also be melted down in the compactor.
Since some people are unable to send the Styrofoam from household products such as egg cartons and meat packaging to the curb with their recycling, the district is allowing people to drop off their Styrofoam at a school with a thermo compactor.