Elementary Students' Eco-Proposal Thrown Out

Tired of throwing away more than their lackluster lunch of fishsticks, potatoes and peas, students at Piney Branch Elementary School decided to take a lunchtime stand.

The school's Young Activist Club suggested that the school purchase a rebuilt dishwasher and reusable trays and silverware to reduce the amount of waste produced at each meal. However, the school quickly reasoned that using disposable plastic trays and silverware is more cost-efficient than purchasing a dishwasher.

It's no surprise that this eco-showdown is occurring in Takoma Park, one of the D.C. area's most socially conscious neighborhoods. With the support of parents, City Council, and the school principal and lunch lady, students still have their tiny, little fingers crossed that a dishwasher will soon find a home in their lunchroom.

And after doing a few elementary-level calculations, the math speaks for itself. The annual cost of using a dishwasher is $300 less than throwaways. However, the one-time cost of the dishwasher and new reusables will be approximately $5,500. This means that the new machine won't start being (monetarily) beneficial until these students are in their mid-20s (18 years from now).

But wait! The students have already raised nearly $9,000 from compassionate donors and foundations, which can easily cover the one-time fees of installing the new dishwasher.

So why the resistance? Besides the humdrum cost argument, according to the Washington Post, the school's "food-service operations rely on the convenience and disposability of plastic." Old folks stuck in their ways? How unexpected.

And after glancing back through our numbers, maybe the Montgomery County School Board should visit Piney Branch and maybe sit in on a few math classes. After all, it's no fun being outsmarted by a 7-year-old.

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