Mission complete: Students Stomp Out Styrofoam at Burrillville schools

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BURRILLVILLE – Callahan Elementary School has discontinued the use of styrofoam meal trays, and the rest of the schools in the district will follow suit in fall, thanks to three young activists who made the change to more environmentally-friendly school meals their mission.

Fourth-graders Julia Breault, Adam DeCesare and Sean Zanella celebrated the achievement this week with assemblies at their school, while continuing their goal of educating their peers about the damage the trays cause.

Julia Breault and accomplice Celia talk to Callahan students about styrofoam.

“We officially stomped out styrofoam at Callahan,” said Breault, who did entertained her fellow students with a comedic ventriloquist routine with puppet “Celia.”

DeCesare and Zanella sang a song to the tune of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

Sean Zanella and Adam DeCesare sing “Take me out to the landfill.”

“Take me out to the landfill, buy me some plastic trays,” they sang at the gathering of students on Tuesday, June 4. “Because it’s one….two….three billion trays that we use a year.”

“It’s basically just to recognize them for their effort and what they were able to accomplish,” said town Refuse and Recycling Coordinator Andrea Hall.

The students first visited Hall with their goal of discontinuing the use of styrofoam in March of last year after watching a report in teacher Rachel Auclair’s classroom about another school’s student-led movement to eliminate build up in landfills.

Hall mapped out a plan with the eager third-graders that began with a educational campaign last year. In November, the group started “Foam Free Fridays,” collecting and wiping off trays used during lunches to raise awareness of just how quickly they can accumulate.

The movement quickly grew and their fellow students – who they say at first weren’t sold on the idea – began jumping up after lunch to help out.

The students collected a total of 750 styrofoam trays, which will be made into a pyramid for display at the Burrillville Green Festival. Next weekend, Breault and “Celia” will be on hand to answer questions at the Burrillville Family Fair.

And in March, food service provider Chartwells announced that the school would switch to reusable plastic trays for meals.

“They had all the dishwashers and trays, so it didn’t cost them anything,” Hall said of Chartwells’ decision at Callahan.

“Because of your campaign, now we’re using regular trays in our lunchroom,” teacher Gayle Delprete.

To discontinue the use of styrofoam at other town schools, the company will have to purchase the plastic trays and two dishwashers, but the commitment has been made. When Burrillville schools reopen in fall, the change will take effect at all five schools.

“It’s all because of these three kids, and now they’re going on to bigger and better missions,” said Hall. “They’re awesome. It was really great to work with them.”

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