Newton program looks to ‘contain’ plastics pollution problem

Plastic is a problem for the environment. And Newton North High School has become part of the solution, with a new pilot program offering reusable containers in its cafeteria.

Students who opt into the program will purchase their food in reusable containers, rather than traditional disposable plastic packaging, and return the containers to designated bins after they’re done.

The containers—made from recycled plastic and BPA-free, manufactured by Preserve and managed by New England company Recirclable—are then cleaned and sanitized by staff.

“We are so excited to help Newton work towards a more sustainable future. We hope that we inspire other communities to join us,” the Newton North Sustainability Team said in a statement announcing the program:

“We are very excited to see the schools taking on this effort,” Judy Jacobs, executive director of Green Newton, said.  “Reusables are a vastly superior solution with a much lower environmental and carbon footprint than single-use plastics. We have been working with Recirclable in Newton where several restaurants have adopted their service.” 

Newton recently enacted a new ordinance toughening rules for restaurants and banning the use of certain single-use plastics for take-out sales. And there’s a push in the same direction for the schools, as the city works toward mitigating waste and fighting climate change.

“Our open lunch policy posed a challenge for switching to reusable containers,” Matt Delaney, general manager of Food Services Whitsons at Newton Public Schools, said. “Our new program allows students to take food outside but requires checking containers out and back in, fostering awareness and the behavior change needed for more reusable programs. We’re hopeful this can lead to a culture shift at our school regarding plastic waste.”