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Cafeteria Culture, founded as Styrofoam Out of Schools, is creatively working to achieve Zero Waste cafeterias in NYC public schools by first eliminating the use of styrofoam trays. We work from both the ground up and the top down to accelerate change, leading in-school ARTS+ACTION Cafeteria Waste Reduction programs, innovative pilots, and Alternative Messaging campaigns, as well as broadening government concepts of visual communication, media, and design innovation as essential factors to the process of change.
- New York City (NYC) public schools have been throwing "away" almost 153,000,000 toxic and polluting styrofoam trays per week (over 3 billion since the 1990s), threatening our environment, our communities and our children, especially low income students, who regularly eat hot food directly off of these trays ( except for TRAYLESS TUESDAYS , implemented citywide as of March 2010, initiated by Styrofoam Out of Schools).
- NYC’s styrofoam trays are exported to out of state landfills and incinerators, posing further serious health and environmental concerns.
- NYC’s 1.3 billion dollar annual Department of Sanitation budget is on the rise.
- Mayor Bloomberg has called for the doubling of the amount of waste we divert from landfills by 2017.
Cafeteria Culture (CafCu) , founded in 2009 as Styrofoam Out of Schools ( www.SOSnyc.org) , catalyzed the incredible launch of TRAYLESS TUESDAYS throughout all of NYC’s 1700 public schools in March 2010 by catalyzing an innovative partnership with New York City (NYC) Department of Education (DoE) SchoolFood. Since then, an impressive 70 million styrofoam trays have been eliminated from production, school lunches, incinerators and landfills at no additional cost to the city.
Recently, our CafCu team, in partnership with NYC public schools The Neighborhood School and PS 63, dramatically reduced school cafeteria garbage and increased recycling rates by implementing a pilot version of our ARTS+ACTION Cafeteria Waste Reduction (CWR) Program. Within weeks, the schools increased waste diversion rates from as low as 3% to 85%, decreased cafeteria curbside garbage from 9 bags per day to a mere 's of a bag per day, and locally composted of all cafeteria food waste.
CafCu organized a series of meetings at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with parents, manufacturers, NGOs and government agencies resulting in:
- An ongoing national EPA webinar series on reducing school waste that has already reached over 100 municipalities and
- A school food and tray composting pilot, in 7 public schools, which NYC Department of Sanitation is expanding to 60 schools in the fall, 2012.
- Debby Lee Cohen
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