Anyone who thinks that kids don’t care about anything but eating uncooked ramen and playing video games clearly underestimated the kids of Thomas Starr King Middle School in Los Angeles. Their interests include uncooked ramen, playing video games, building a tower of styrofoam, and getting so grossed out by it that they launch a letter-writing campaign and eventually convince the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) to become the first school district in the nation to ban styrofoam. LAUSD has 900 schools, so that is a shitload of single-use disposable plastic that is no longer going to our nation’s landfills and generally marching us one step closer to living on pilings over the sea.
How it all started: Students at King’s environmental studies magnet program (really? Badass!) did one of those annoying smug projects, the kind where they carried around all their trash for a week. Normally the main result of these projects is that parents go “oh my god this is such a pain in the ass,” but instead, seeing the giant pile of trash got these kids really fired up. They noticed that a big part of that cumbersome pile was styrofoam school lunch trays, so they built a tower of a day’s worth of styrofoam, and it was really big, and they were like, “ew.” So they started writing letters to the school board.
And the school board listened. LAUSD banned styrofoam in all 900 schools and replaced it with biodegradable pressed fiber trays, although the students would eventually like to have trays that get washed and reused. Not only that, but Los Angeles school superintendent John Deasy plans to encourage other school districts across the country to follow LAUSD’s lead at this year’s national meeting of superintendents. We imagine this conversation might go well — the one about how no one can do algebra might be a little more heated.
Get Grist in your inbox