Trouble in Lunch Lady Land
The Nampa School District claims Styrofoam trays are a cost-cutting measure. Video by IdahoOnYourSide.comvideo
On Wednesday, we first brought you the story of the Nampa School District’s dumping of Styrofoam trays, and the students and teachers upset about the schools lack of the planned recycling machine.
The Nampa School District says it now has the Thermo-Compacter recycling machine.
Nampa School District spokesperson Allison Westfall said Wednesday that the District was waiting for the results of a financial audit to find out if they have the funds to buy the machine from Western Recycling Technologies.
By Thursday, she said they had the machine, despite the audit not being complete. She said they didn’t “write the check” but that they were “confident” the funds were there.
But we questioned the math that went into the "cost-cutting measure" of switching over from reusable trays in the first place.
The only numbers the school district gave to substantiate the claims of cost savings were the following, taken directly from an email written by Sheila Keim, the director of food services in the Nampa School District:
“Looking at this year (you wanted simple math) we took 15 elementary schools saving 1 hour per day (this can vary by site depending on how many trays are being washed) @ a rate of $8.44 per hour (the minimum pay for our department)- that comes to $126.60 per day x 168 school serving days = a savings just in labor of $21,668.80. The chemicals used to de-lime our dish machines were being used 1 time per week- we now only have to de-lime 1 time per month- this saves $1700 per year- this does not include the labor, water usage or power to operate the dish machine while de-liming.”
Despite repeated requests, the District would not provide the costs of Styrofoam trays.
So we did our own math.
The Boise District, which uses Styrofoam trays at a few schools, says it costs them .039 cents per tray.
At .039 cents per day, multiplied by 165 school lunch days, by 15 elementary schools, by 450 students on average per school, it adds up to more than $46,000 year.
The Thermo Compactor also has an expensive upfront cost – more than $10,000 for the machine itself plus a required yearly contract of $1,200.
The School District says the $23,000 in estimated labor and “de-liming” savings does not include things like water and electricity.
But the recycling machine takes electricity –six to ten hours of power to recycle 1,200 trays, according to information about the machine provided by the Middleton School District, which uses the Thermo Compactor.
The Thermo Compactor also requires someone to be transporting all those trays and putting them in the Compactor each day – which means labor costs to the District.
Perhaps the biggest problem of all – the machine can recycle a maximum of 1,200 trays per day. In the Nampa School District, that would leave more than 5,000 trays without a chance to be recycled each day.
That begs the question of where all those trays would end up.