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Tahoe students want plastic cafeteria foam plates banned

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POSTED January 1, 2014 7:04 p.m.

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. (AP) — Lake Tahoe-area elementary school students who are concerned about the environment are trying to persuade school district officials to replace plastic foam cafeteria plates with reusable trays.

Eric Harssema, who teaches third grade at Incline Elementary School in Incline Village, told the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza (http://tinyurl.com/l6kqrlr) that his students gathered more than 300 signatures from classmates after researching plastic foam, landfills and toxic chemicals.

He said officials with Washoe County School District Nutrition Services have tentatively agreed to make the switch, possibly early in the new year.

Students wrote to district officials and submitted copies of some of the letters to the newspaper late last month as a result of their class project that included research assignments, presentations and meetings with school administrators.

“Styrofoam takes up as much as 30 percent of our landfill space, and its 98 percent air, so it floats,” wrote Dillon Lambert, citing sources in his letter.

Washington University determined that the material takes 500 years to decompose, he said.

“We aren’t just writing these letters, we are putting up posters, making a school wide petition and we are going to give every class in Incline Elementary a short presentation,” Lambert wrote.

Harssema, a Cleveland native who started teaching at the school four years ago, said he wanted to make the project a learning process that motivated the students to go beyond normal classroom work.

“We want Styrofoam gone by 2014,” wrote Mia Coudriet, who added that 25 million Styrofoam cups are thrown away daily. “My school uses 150 Styrofoam trays in a whole day and 27,000 Styrofoam trays in a whole year.”

The future of the plates won’t be determined until students return from a three-week winter break in mid-January.

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