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Topic Briefs

Reusable Foodware in Schools - December 2022

California’s schools produce over half a million tons of waste each year, with much of this waste coming from the cafeteria. While the majority of the waste stream in schools is comprised of organics, the rest is primarily from the single-use trays, disposable plastic utensils, and condiment packets. This trash often escapes campuses and ends up in storm drains and as litter in neighborhoods.

To address these issues, a growing list of schools are piloting an innovative reusable foodware project, switching out single-use trays and plastic utensils for reusable items made from stainless steel. In addition to reducing waste, reusables in the cafeteria also help minimize plastic contamination in the organics stream. And there’s a health benefit to reusables, too, as single-use plastic and compostable foodware can contain harmful chemicals that can leach into food and the environment.