The environmental club at Riverside Secondary worked behind the scenes with the cafeteria staff to replace the styrofoam cups in the cafeteria with biodegradable cardboard cups, which will result in reducing waste and being more environmentally friendly. This change came to action in January.

Ms. Jacquelyn Collins, the teacher in charge of the environmental club, said the point of switching the materials is to eliminate the styrofoam. “Styrofoam is extremely toxic to make and it’s also not healthy to eat from. When you throw it away in the garbage, you are contributing to lethal waste in the landfill. Our attempt was to get rid of the styrofoam, and instead use the alternative that we found, biodegradable cardboard,” said Collins.

Collins said the club is going to launch a campaign to encourage students to compost the new cup. “When you’re finished throw it in a compost bin instead of the garbage. So, then the compost is turned into soil, which can then enhance the growth of natural plants. It’s going right back into the earth,” said Collins.

“The students in the environmental club did research on the toxicity of styrofoam, alternative options for the cups, the prices of those options, sources, and where to order it from. When they had collected all their research they made a film of their findings, which they presented to the cafeteria staff and Mr. Anthony Ciolfitto in a meeting,” said Collins. “They loved the idea, so we decided to introduce the new cups in January, when they had finished using all the styrofoam cups they had bought.”

Environmental club members, Cayley Minty and Fatima Yaseen

Cayley Minty, a grade 12 at Riverside Secondary and a member of the environmental club said, “We researched the effects of styrofoam towards people’s health and the environment, then just combined everything into a film.”

Fatima Yaseen, a grade 12 at Riverside Secondary and a member of the environmental club, researched the possible options for a new material to use. “An issue we had to consider was, if the product is more expensive because of the compostable cups, would the students still buy the product. Thankfully, everything turned out well,” said Yaseen.

Minty said she thinks the students have noticed the change. “A lot of the containers are ending up in the compost bin, which is good because that was our goal. The students play a big part in this, they’re the ones who will be using the new compost bins, and they’re the ones that buy the cafeteria’s product,” said Minty. “This is an important change, that needed to happen. The cafeteria just needed a little push.”

Collins said the club’s goal right now is to educate students about composting the cups, therefore, improving the use of compost bins. “We’re also talking about designing new compost bins that turn the compost into soil, then making a garden to use the soil in and grow plants,” said Collins.

The environmental club meets in room 106 at lunch on Thursdays. “We always welcome new members to join,” Collins said.

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