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Foam Tray Issue Discredits District

July 08, 1990

On June 7, there was an article ("Student Drive Serves as Food for Thought on Recycling") regarding the use of plastic foam trays in the cafeterias of Long Beach public schools. The article reported that every day 50,000 of these trays are used and thrown away. No system of recycling is used.

We were pleased to discover that students from several Long Beach schools are pressing the district to ban the use of plastic foam trays. We were offended, however, by the reasoning of Frank Towers, head of the school district food service division, who said that these trays are "the least expensive way for the school district to go." Towers demonstrates severe economic shortsightedness; the REAL cost of these trays includes the expense of repair or reversing (if possible) the damage chlorofluorocarbons cause to our skin and our crops.

The decision to use the trays, in the face of the mounting evidence against them, demonstrates shortsightedness and poor judgment on the part of the school district. The decision to bring a representative of the plastic foam industry to Buffum school to discuss the "dilemma" without inviting a representative from the environmental community to present the other side was irresponsible at best.

The recent commemoration of Earth Day stressed to students the importance of taking care of our environment. Teaching environmental responsibility and then practicing reckless environmental waste discredits both the school district and the teachers.

There are no easy answers to this complex problem and it is insulting to hear Towers reduce it to a simple economic equation. Our community deserves more responsible leadership. Many communities and industries have been able to wade through this problem and come up with effective alternatives to the kind of environmental havoc that the Long Beach school district is perpetuating.

ROBB and KATHRYN RUSSELL

Long Beach

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