CARMEL, Ind. (WISH) – A new initiative at Carmel Clay Schools is trying to teach kids about wasting plastic and they’re starting in the cafeteria.
At the start of the school year, food service staff switched out plastic forks and spoons for metal ones at Clay Middle School, West Clay Elementary and College Wood Elementary Schools.
Adults today may remember using metal silverware at lunch, but for the last 10 years, students have grown up without the silver spoon.
Jennifer McFarland, director of food and nutrition services, says the district switched to plastic for lunch-line efficiency and to cut the labor expense of cleaning and sorting cutlery. She says districts across the country made a similar switch, including adding disposable trays and cups, resulting in a lot of more garbage after lunch.
“Unfortunately in this generation growing up with tons of plastic, there’s tons of waste as well,” said Todd Crosby, principal at Clay Middle School.
A group of parents and district staff known as the Carmel Green Team proposed a change back to metal cutlery at the start of this school year.
“It’s almost like we are going back to time but at the same time we’re doing it smarter,” said Crosby. “Part of this whole initiative is to educate our kids. It’s fine to put silverware in a cafeteria, but [you must] explain why.”
At Clay Middle School alone, last year kids threw out 150,000 individual forks and spoons. That was initially a $2,500 purchase, according to McFarland. She says the switch to silver to go green, will save some green as well.
“We did not have to add any labor. It’ll be a cost savings,” she said, explaining that the students do the silverware sorting at the end of the meal, and the investment in metal cutlery is beneficial long-term.
“If they leave middle school with the concept of how to recycle and reuse, then hopefully they’re expanding that out into the greater community of Carmel and to the State of Indiana and to the nation,” said Crosby.
Jackson, a 6th grader at Clay Middle School, answered immediately when asked why his school made the switch.
“Probably to save the turtles from eating all the plastic,” he said over his lunch.
The switch to spoons has created a stir on social media as well.
“It’s been a good dinner conversation,” said McFarland. “Kids are coming home saying, ‘Guess what we have real forks and real spoons!’ So they’re getting they’re parents involved in the conversation.”
McFarland expects more schools to follow suit beginning January 2020, particularly elementary and middle schools. She hopes to have the initiative district-wide in the next year or two.
Follow the progress of the Carmel Green Team on their social media account.