Plastic, Styrofoam ban implemented in cafeteria

Ban resulted from Tanikella’s efforts to pass Northborough proposal


Annabella Ferraiuolo

After receiving her lunch on one of the cafeteria’s new paper trays, junior Sarah Saeed enjoys her chicken nuggets.

Sharada Vishwanath, Assistant Online Editor

As of Jan. 1, plastic bags and Styrofoam have been banned in Northborough, prompting the cafeteria to switch from Styrofoam to paper trays. 

The push to ban plastic bags and Styrofoam was led by junior Sravya Tanikella with help from members of Interact Club, of which she is president. 

“My efforts started my freshman year, when I began to write bylaws and began to actually put forth the first petition for banning plastic bags,” Tanikella said.

She faced many challenges before succeeding in passing the bylaw on April 24 of last year at the Northborough Board of Selectmen. 

Annabella Ferraiuolo
Junior Sravya Tanikella lead the efforts to help ban plastic bags and Styrofoam in Northborough.

“Unfortunately, I was working completely alone [the first time],” Tanikella said. “I didn’t have the proper support system, the proper resources or the proper preparation. It went through town once [in 2018], but it did not pass, everyone voted against it.” 

Tanikella pushed through the initial set back and continued to put in the effort. Tanikella even added Styrofoam to the proposed ban.

“The following year [after the unsuccessful vote], we tried again and I put in a lot more effort,” Tanikella said. “I worked every week for 10 months, making presentations, raising awareness and doing a lot of work regarding [the ban].” 

For Tanikella, an important part of the effort involved letting businesses know the ban was coming. Tanikella’s Interact Club teamed up with Sustainable Northborough, an environmentally focused committee, and spread the word.

“We talked to lots of businesses,” Tankikella said. “We talked to the big businesses up on Northborough Crossing but we also talked to all the small businesses here, in the center of town. I feel that it spread the needed awareness around town.”

Styrofoam has been banned in Northborough, and the cafeteria will be eliminating Styrofoam completely once the existing Styrofoam runs out. 

“The Styrofoam we pretty much got rid of entirely,”  Food Services Manager Dianne Cofer said. “There are just a few cups left. I can just throw the excess away, but I might as well use it. [The ban is] more of an expense to us now because the paper products are three times as much as the Styrofoam.” 

Plastic bags are still allowed in Northborough, however, they can not be made out of thin plastic. Thicker plastic is usually made out of recycled material and is still allowed. 

“There is still plastic, but the thicker ones are also more expensive which pushes retailers to purchase paper bags instead,” Tanikella said. “Also a lot of retailers opt for selling reusable bags instead.” 

Tanikella finds the fruits of over 10 months of effort personally gratifying.

“My family and I were out shopping and I used to see rows and rows of plastic in Walmart or Wegmans, but they’re all gone now,” Tanikella said. “It feels as though my effort I put in even in this little town is going to make a big effect on thousands of people, which is surreal. I’m starting to see the change I wish I saw in the world.”