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NO-styro Used Lunch Tray Puppets-
• NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - Giant styrofoam marionettes were used at City Hall on Monday to protest the use of the material in New York City school lunch trays, WCBS 880′s Rich Lamb reported.

School Lunchroom Movement Wins NY Styrene Fight      

By CHAD BOUCHARD, January 2, 2014, Earth Eats, Indiana Public Media



The New York Times, March 9, 2010

Popcorn Fridays? Meet Trayless Tuesdays


Karen Moline, TruthAtlas Special Correspondent • Jan. 28, 2014 • Innovators, Special Feature


What she has done as co-founder and director of Cafeteria Culture (CafCu) is nothing short of astonishing. Instead of taking on the powers-that-be in the DoE, she partnered with them. The idea CafCu proposed was to have “Tray-less Tuesdays” citywide, with a goal of reducing trays by 20 percent in one year. The scheme worked, lessening the foam footprint by over 80 million trays since its inception. And CafCu is close to reaching their goal of completely eliminating polystyrene trays from all NYC schools, as well as from five other large U.S. school districts. The enormous combined buying power of these districts lowers the unit cost so compostable plates can be used instead of landfill-destined Styrofoam.


.One of the reasons the indefatigable Debby Lee has made this program so successful is not just her dedication, but her unique set of skills. Trained as a collaborative visual artist and educator, she has taught design at Parsons School of Design in NYC and created multi-media works, scenic designs, and some of the giant puppets well-known to anyone who’s seen the annual Halloween Parade in downtown Manhattan. “Artists are always on the cutting edge of change, and I look at problem-solving not in a linear, by-the-book way, but through the lens of design,” she explains. “Making use of design thinking creates a whole system where you can engage the creative process while you’re figuring out how to problem-solve, or when you’re teaching kids and you want the lessons to stick.”-


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Debby Lee Cohen, a public school mom and the director and co-founder of Cafeteria Culture, mustered for action with other environmentally-minded moms and teachers in the spring of 2009 to stop the waste of millions of polystyrene trays per day. Soon after, they launched a kid-driven pilot project to sort waste in lunchrooms, and 15 other groups in the city took up the cause.


“This landmark decision puts another nail in the coffin of toxic styrenes. It’s a victory for our health and our future!” Lee Cohen said in a release. “Our children’s children’s children will be thankful!”Cafeteria Culture has pushed for compostable trays to replace polystyrene ones, and spurred collective purchasing to keep costs down..

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Keynote address by Debby Lee Cohen,
The New School,
Sustainapalooza III: Earth Week 2016 ->

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Trayless Tuesdays in NYC Schools Inspired by a 7 year old girl


Three years ago, I took my children to the Climate Change exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History. The kids raced in and out of rooms and three quarters of the way through, my seven-year-old suddenly stopped mesmerized, contemplating a diorama of a polar bear standing on a pile of trash. She turned to me and said,  “I’m not eating school lunch anymore so I can save the polar bears.” In that pile of trash was a polystyrene foam lunch tray. (read more)

BIO CYCLE, April 2012


Trayless In New York City

Some schools go trayless to reduce food waste. New York City public schools implemented “Trayless Tuesday” in order to immediately curtail 20 percent of polystyrene trays going to the landfill. While New York City’s 1,700 pubic schools recycle by mandate, most of the approximately 850,000 students participating in the school lunch program are still served on single-serving plastic foam trays. That amounts to about 153 million trays a year, says Debby Lee Cohen, director of Styrofoam Out of Schools/Cafeteria Culture, who participated in a recent webinar entitled “Reducing Waste in Schools” hosted by EPA Region 2. “These trays contain styrene and benzine, kids eat directly off of them, they are only used for 20 or 30 minutes, and then they get exported to out-of-state landfills. That’s inconsistent with the message children are taught in school and at home to reduce waste and recycle.”

But the trays are inexpensive, says Stephen O’Brien, Director of Food and Food Support for the New York City Department of Education (DOE), and that is a significant factor when more than 75 percent of participating students are served breakfast and/or lunch at a reduced rate or for free. Cohen and O’Brien got together and began to brainstorm how to make a dent in the problem, eventually involving the New York City Bureau of Waste Prevention, Reuse and Recycling. It turned out the DOE already had contracts for the bulk purchase of clay-lined paper boats, which could accommodate meals such as hamburgers, sandwiches and other items that did not contain high amounts of liquids or sauce. The menu was tweaked, and Trayless Tuesday was born. Rollout involved principals in each school explaining the program classroom by classroom, college student volunteers helping with initial implementation and a “flip, tap and stack” campaign to help ensure proper compliance. “If they are clean and dry, they can be recycled,” explains O’Brien.

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