Examples of new biodegradable trays being used at Osceola Elementary School in Ormond Beach.

Osceola Elementary School in Ormond Beach began a brand new environmentally friendly project Oct. 21, using biodegradable trays.

What this means for students is no more polystyrene trays, no more straws, food items will be served directly onto the new trays, and students will access individual utensils from a new dispenser.

A biodegradable tray or, for that matter, biodegradable product is engineered to quickly and safely break down into raw materials, which disappear into the environment.

Benefits to using biodegradable products include having a positive impact on the environment, less plastic being hauled off to the landfill, products being made from renewable plants and various vegetable oils, and no toxins used in the process or in the final product.

Barbara Bruner is principal of Osceola Elementary, stated in an email, “Our students and school staff are excited to be the pilot school and continue to embrace our new biodegradable trays. We know teaching our students by example to help our environment is a perfect example of lifelong learning.”

Robenson Prime, School Way Café Coordinator for Volusia County Schools, said, “We’re very excited to be part of this new initiative. These new biodegradable trays are engineered to naturally disintegrate right back into the environment. This pilot is only taking place at Osceola Elementary for now with future hope of expansion to other schools.”

Carl Persis, chairman of the Volusia County School Board, said, “We’re very excited about it. So far so good. We had to start somewhere. We talked about it in the summer and our School Way Café Director (Heather DeMeola) is totally on board with this. Everything guided us towards (starting with) Osceola Elementary. The initial reaction we’ve heard from the students, teachers, principals, they are very favorable and very happy.”

He described how research had to be done with cost and product options. A little more labor intensive because of the way the trays come in off the truck and need to be separated, but in the long run it’s worth it. He liked the concept that as teachers talk about preserving the environment in the classrooms, students can see a practical application through this initiative.

Mr. Persis added, in terms of shopping and single use plastics, “the numbers are staggering when you think of the number of people shopping and buying things every single day. If just 10% of us would change our ways, that’s a huge number. That’s how it starts and it will just continue to grow.”

Susan Persis, an Ormond Beach City Commissioner and advocate for reducing single use plastics in the city, said, “I think it’s just fabulous. Our young people today our very conscious of being environmentally friendly and safe. Not only do we hope this is going to take off to other schools, but it’s a big education piece for these kids and really for families. I think it’s a big initiative that is going to come railroading toward us. This is near and dear to my heart and I just think that all of us have the responsibility to do whatever we can to keep our environment as clean and safe and healthy as we can.”

Ormond Beach Mayor Bill Partington stated, “First, I have to give Commissioner Persis a great amount of credit for leading the city’s efforts to encourage our residents to reduce, reuse and recycle. Ormond Beach has great young residents who understand the value of protecting our beautiful natural environment. It just makes you feel good to see these young Osceola Braves taking the initiative with biodegradable lunch trays knowing that it’s great for our environment and our future. I’m very proud of the entire school and look forward to other schools following their environmental stewardship example.”

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