In the 2013 Fall semester, Global Green USA and Parsons the New School for Design held a class focused on re-designing New York City school lunch trays. With over 830,000 lunch trays sent to landfill each school day in NYC, the challenge is: Can we transform trays currently made from unrecoverable expanded polystyrene foam into aesthetically pleasing, functional, recyclable, and compostable lunch trays?
The curriculum for the class, taught by faculty member Daniel Michalik, was designed in conjunction with Global Green USA’s Coalition for Resource Recovery (CoRR). This school lunch tray project builds upon Global Green’s groundbreaking work in New York City to develop and pilot recyclable food packaging recovery systems with quick-service restaurants such as Pret A Manger, Jamba Juice, and Starbucks.
This semester-long class provided a valuable applied educational experience for undergraduate design students; it brought experts in the field of foodservice packaging design and paper fiber together with young student designers who bring a fresh take to a timely issue in NYC. Parsons students worked both individually and in groups to research the design constraints associated with these trays. Global Green coordinated school visits to see trays in use and tours of manufacturing or recycling facilities, and arranged for product samples and presentations from industry professionals.
The objectives of the class were to provide a hands-on educational experience for design students, to inform the design of prototype trays that would, if produced and used en masse, enrich the lunch experience for New York’s school children by giving them the chance to act responsibly for the environment, and to reduce the ecological impact of school lunch.
Global Green is currently in the process of completing follow-up on the project by directly communicating the results to school boards, parents and other stakeholders to raise awareness of recyclable and compostable alternatives to unrecoverable trays, and share lessons learned from this project. Tell us what your school is doing and stay tuned to hear more about our project!