Throughout North Carolina, public schools serve more than 160 million lunches per year. Most of these are served on polystyrene (“styrofoam”) trays with plastic utensils. Decades ago, US schools switched from washable plastic trays to polystyrene because they were cheaper and easier than loading and running dishwashers.

The explosion of plastic waste, however, and an understanding of polystyrene health risks has led schools throughout the US to look at polystyrene alternatives.

Every Tray Counts is a North Carolina-based nonprofit that has worked with multiple school districts in NC to replace polystyrene trays with compostable ones. But even better–they are helping districts pull compostable waste from landfills as well, reducing long-term disposal costs and connecting schools to the growing (and profitable) composting market. In just four years, Every Tray Counts has diverted more than 50 tons of waste from landfills in NC.

Along the way, students learn more than a few science lessons on composting “ecosystems” and materials management, as seen in this video:

Contact Every Tray Counts to learn more about their efforts, and consider a donation to help this non-profit help more schools in our state.