An inconvenient truth about EPS foam versus compostable paper


Replacing EPS foam trays with compostable paper plates has become a major initiative for six large school districts in the United States, as I reported recently in an article, "Goodbye EPS trays, hello compostable plates." To justify the switch to paper from plastic, the announcement cited the "institutional" look of the EPS trays: Institutional like in "prison," or "nursing home" or "hospital?" Schools are institutions, right?

The changeover from recyclable plastic to compostable paper is being done in spite of the fact that none of the school districts that responded to my inquiry had any composting contracts in place. It was to be an "in-house" composting effort on school grounds.

Additionally, the cost of the compostable paper plates is higher than the EPS trays, but, as the article points out, the school districts were able to get the price of the plates down close to the cost of the trays. The perceived value of purchasing compostable paper plates—the "green" factor that seems to be inherent in paper that the "greens" reject in plastics—makes it worth the extra money.

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