By Julie Shapiro
BATTERY PARK CITY — A Battery Park City elementary school won top honors this week for using cafeteria trays made out of sugarcane rather than Styrofoam.
P.S. 89 earned a citywide elementary Golden Apple award from the Department of Sanitation and a Golden Shovel from the department's NYC Compost Project after cutting its lunchtime trash output by more than half in just the last few months.
"We could see how dedicated your school was to reduce, reuse, recycle and to composting," Carey Pulverman, a manager for the NYC Compost Project, told the students at a ceremony Tuesday afternoon.
"A lot of you changed your daily habits here in the lunchroom, and we've been very impressed by that."
P.S. 89's parent-led "Green Team" spearheaded the switch from Styrofoam trays to biodegradable trays made of sugarcane, starch and wood pulp earlier this year after becoming concerned about the school's trash output, said Diana Biagioli, a P.S. 89 parent.
The PTA pays the extra two cents it costs to purchase each environmentally friendly tray and is working with Holton Farms in Vermont to compost them after they're used. The school goes through about 350 to 400 trays per day, Biagioli said.
Rather than dumping everything, including the trays, into the trash after lunch, P.S. 89 students now carefully remove any leftover food from their trays and stack them on a table. They also pour out their extra milk and recycle the cardboard cartons.
Parent volunteers are on hand every day to supervise the process — but most students know the routine and say they didn't mind the extra steps.
"If we don't take care of our planet, it will become a big dump," said 7-year-old Himani Sirsi, who lives in Battery Park City. "The Styrofoam trays release toxic gases, and they're bad for the planet."
Since switching to sugarcane trays in February, P.S. 89 has reduced its lunchtime trash output from eight to 12 bags of garbage a day to just four, parents said.
Michelle Lee, 7, a Battery Park City resident, said that after learning about the environment in school, she often reminds her parents to recycle at home, and now she hopes to spread the lesson to other schools as well.
"If every school in the universe does this, it'll be happier [for] the planet," she said.