BURRILLVILLE – A movement started last year by three Callahan Elementary students who wanted to see their school do less damage to the environment is catching on, and it’s not only keeping trash out of local landfills, it’s also helping to educate their classmates about ways to reduce waste.
Julia Breault, Adam DeCesare and Sean Zanella came up with the idea for Foam Free Fridays after watching a report in class about a student-led movement to eliminate styrofoam in another town.
The students took their case for a foam free Burrillville School District to food service provider Aramark, and then the town’s trash and recycling coordinator, Andrea Hall.
They were told that they wouldn’t be able to eliminate the styrofoam trays in the district immediately, but they could collect them at lunches once a week, and educate others about how much of the stuff collects in landfills.
Since November, they’ve done just that, collecting trays used at the school’s 4th grade lunch every Friday.
Hall agreed to help, and brings in gloves and sanitary wipes each week to help clean off the trays, which will be turned into a creation used to raise awareness of just how quickly the stuff can accumulate.
Hall uses the opportunity to educate the kids about which items can and can’t be recycled, information the students take home to their parents.
“It’s been a really good educational piece,” she said.
The trash coordinator also applied for grant money for advertising, and sent flyers home to parents about the program. Hall also bought bracelets and t-shirts donning their motto #stompoutstyrofoam, to give to the kids.
The group says that school staff has also been accommodating. Janitor Dave Petrone set up a new trash system to make it easy for the students to separate recycling, and clean off used trays. Lunch ladies Tina Lupis and Donna Gardiner help by rinsing off the messier ones.
The students have established their own Instagram account, and can be followed at stompoutstyrofoam.
And while initially, they say many of their peers didn’t get it, now they’re all signing on to help. Around 15 kids currently help to clean and collect the trays, and each week more are joining the movement.
The collected styrofoam will be turned into one massive pyramid, and brought to local events like the Burrillville Family Fair and the Green Festival.
“It’s very enjoyable doing this,” said Decasare. “We have approximately 500 trays.”
Eventually, the students say they still hope to eliminate styrofoam from Burrillville schools completely, but for now, they’re happy with the progress they’ve made.
“It’s been really great,” said DeCesare. “If we did all the lunches, we’d have way more. Baby steps.”
“We could definitely have more,” agreed Zanella, adding, “We’ve come a long way.”