Students from my 3D Studio, Body in Time class (in the Foundation Program at Parsons the New School for Design) constructed a sculpture made from about one thousand used Styrofoam (polystyrene) trays. The dirty compartmentalized trays were collected (and washed) from NYC Department of Education schools, including PS 41, in the West Village, NEST+m on the Lower East Side and PS 163 in the Bronx. The intention of the project was to communicate the enormity of the problem posed to the environment and our children’s health by the continued use of these trays.

In NYC alone, 850,000 trays are disposed of daily (4 million weekly!) from our public schools. Styrofoam (or polystyrene) trays take hundreds or maybe thousands of years to decompose. Studies have shown that styrene may leach out of these containers and contaminate hot foods, especially those with a fatty content.

This student project utilized three-dimensional design and the concept of time in art and design to frame this complex tray problem as a visual metaphor. The class had only 2 class periods and a little over a week to complete the collaborative design and construction process.

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