Every Tray Counts began in CHCCS and continued in Durham. These districts have very different financial and community models. Granville County has yet another model as an example of the different ways, thus far, communities have come together and improved on their district’s handling of waste. Feel free to look through these examples for ideas.

Chapel Hill

Every Tray Counts was started when parents in the CHCCS district wanted their schools to use compostable or reusable trays instead of polystyrene trays for the health of the children as well as helping the environment. Our action  was initially prompted by the cautionary messages from both international and federal agencies, including the National Institute of Health (NIH), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Food & Drug Administration (FDA), identifying polystyrene as a possible carcinogen.  As the initial pilot project unfolded in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School District and we performed several audits, it became clear that waste, including food and compostable trays, could be reduced from 139.3 pounds to 13 pounds, a decrease of 91%! By increasing  recycling compliance, diverting the foods and trays via commercial composting, savings in waste disposal costs accrued.  Thus, the original goal of replacing the polystyrene trays became a much larger one and we began to take a look at all of the issues surrounding the trash cycle.

Of course, Chapel Hill schools remain very special to us. This is where it all started! Please look at ETC- How We Began to see how our first project unfolded. The Trash Terminators and the CHCCS Sustainability Committee are now permanent advocates for sustainability in the district.

Charlotte Mecklenburg School District

Take a look at the pilot partnership between Mecklenburg Count Solid Waste Department and the Charlotte Mecklenburg School System.  As of May 2015, 25 schools of 164 schools are composting in the lunch room!



  • ETC and E.K. Powe Elementary School
  • Enlist Your Community:
  • The  Durham School Board  was very helpful from the beginning. We met with Heidi Carter, president of the Board, and gained valuable information about what meetings to attend and what issues were involved. Speak to your school board members to garner support and to determine what funding and in-kind support is available.


Guilford County School District



Two private schools in Raleigh, Ravenscroft School and St. Timothy’s School, were key in helping us test our composting programs. After our successful pilots, they have each kept up their own recycling and composting programs. Learn more from the schools on their pages below: