Cutlery Decisions: Administration considers switching from plastic cutlery to metal at CHS

Kiersten Riedford

Recently, Clay Middle School, West Clay and College Wood elementary schools made the switch from plastic to metal cutlery. According to Jennifer McFarland, the director of nutritional services for Carmel Clay Schools (CCS), these are the first steps in a larger plan to replace plastic cutlery in all the district schools by fall of 2021. McFarland said the goal of making the switch is to teach students to be more environmentally aware.

There is also a financial incentive. For example, according to McFarland, before the switch at Clay, the school was using over 150,000 pieces of plastic per year, which cost over $3,500. But when changing the utensils to metal, the school spent only $420 on 3,600 pieces of cutlery. For now, the schools have focused on switching only spoons and forks.

The alteration to metal cutlery is the administration’s way of teaming with the Green Team, the parent and staff group which focuses on making CCS schools as environmentally friendlyas possible.

 McFarland said one of the goals of the shift is to show students what they can do for their environment.

“A lot of the schools shared the reasons why we are doing this, and it’s not just to save money; it’s really to partner with our Green Team and eliminate the plastic disposables,” McFarland said. “We know that we still have to have some plastics with how our meal system is set up, but if we can make small changes then it will still make a positive impact.” 

Roger McMichael, the associate superintendent of business affairs of CCS, said, “(The switch) shows students how one small change can make an impact. By switching at Clay Middle School alone, we are preventing 150,000 disposable utensils from reaching the landfill.”

Senior Madeline “Maddie” Heath sits outside with her friends to eat her lunch. She said she believes that switching to metal cutlery will help not only the environment, but it will create a better culture at the school in regards to a focus on environmental health.

The administration is still finding other ways to make the school more environmentally friendly besides changing plastic utensils to metal, a couple of examples already implemented being instead of using Styrofoam trays, students use washable trays. The administration took away straws since the 2017-2018 school year.


According to McFarland, the students should also be taking the initiative when they have the choice to do everyday things in an environmentally-friendly way. The Green Action Club at the high school, for example, works to help the school be more aware of the changes that can benefit the earth here at the school itself.

Student body president and senior Madeline “Maddie” Heath said, “I think (the switch) is important in the same way that switching from paper towels to hand dryers is important. I think it falls into that same realm of doing something. We should be aware of the fact that there is something that we can be doing to create a culture for Carmel.”