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Environment and Outdoors

Waterville Company to Produce Millions of Compostable School Lunch Trays

WATERVILLE, Maine -- A factory in Waterville known for it's molded fiber plates has entered into a contract to provide an alliance of some of the nation's largest school districts with compostable lunch trays. The trays are expected to replace 225 million polystyrene trays that would otherwise end up in landfills.

The factory now operated by Finnish company Huhtamaki will produce the compostable plates from recycled paper. Food and nutrition directors in the alliance specified a round shape to allow students to eat off plates like they use at home, replacing the institutional rectangular lunch tray.

Huhtamaki spokesman Wess Hudelson says the new tray is not only something to eat from, it's also a teaching tool for students. "They can learn about composting and what happens to those trays after they toss them when lunch is over, so that there's a learning aspect to this as well as environmental."

Hudelson says the volume involved and production improvements will allow Huhtamaki to provide the new compostable plates for just a penny more than what a polystyrene tray would cost.