'Green' tray in use at Brackett, PeirceBiodegradable trays are replacing Styrofoam in the lunchroom at the Brackett and Peirce schools this fall.

The two schools are participating in a pilot program to test the “green” trays. Rob Rice, food service director of the Arlington public schools, said he hopes to begin using the trays at all seven elementary schools if no major drawbacks are found.

Rice also hopes to eventually use biodegradable food service products at the Ottoson Middle School and Arlington High School cafeterias.

The new trays, which are sold under the brand name GreenWave, are manufactured in China from a mix of natural fibers, such as sugarcane, grass and bamboo.

They are certified as compostable by the Biodegradable Products Institute, an organization that certifies and promotes the use of biodegradable products.

A recent drop in price of the trays, along with additional funds made available to the food service from the increased lunch fees this fall, from $2.25 to $3 a meal, have made the pilot program possible. Rice expects the price of the trays to continue to drop as more schools, both within Arlington and within other districts in the schools’ purchasing collaborative, begin using them.

So far, says Rice, the trays have performed well. The only drawback — which he characterized as marginal — has been that the stacked trays tend to stick together slightly before use and need to be separated before the lunch rush.

Rice said that the higher cost of the new trays prevented the school system from switching to them before this year. He declined to comment about the cost of the new and old trays, except to say that the price came down this year from a previously "very high price."

“I think its time has come, and it’s a great idea,” Rice said of the use of biodegradable trays. “It’s opened the door, and we’re definitely committed to it.”