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NYC Organics Collection Pilot FAQs

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resident faqs
school faqs

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Resident FAQs

Is my home included in the pilot program?
Where can I buy certified compostable bags?
Do I have to buy special bags?
What day will DSNY collect my organics?
Where do I place the brown bin for collection?
I set out my brown bin/yard waste but it wasn't collected.
There is a problem with the bin or starter kit I received.
How do I keep my bins clean and fresh?
What can I put in the brown bin?
I have a lot of yard waste but my brown bin is full. What should I do?
Are meat and bones ok? I can't compost them in my backyard.
Will the food waste attract rodents or bugs?
What happens to the organic waste after Sanitation collects it?
Why did Sanitation choose this area to implement the pilot?
When will curbside organics collection come to other parts of the city?
Does Sanitation offer finished compost to residents and/or community groups?
Does Sanitation keep track of what I put on the curb?

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Q. Is my home included in the pilot program?
A. Houses and small buildings (9 units or less) in pilot areas are automatically enrolled in the program. View pilot area maps to see if your neighborhood is included in the pilot program. To see if your specific address is in a pilot area, visit the DSNY collection schedule: if you have been assigned an organics collection day, you are part of the pilot. Large apartment buildings (10+ units) that are interested in participating need to submit an inquiry form to sign up.

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Q. Where can I buy certified compostable bags?
A. For information on where to purchase certified compostable bags, please visit our list of retailers.

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Q. Do I have to buy special bags?
A. Please see information about bags and liners.

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Q. What day will DSNY collect my organics?
A. Please see your collection schedule.

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Q. Where do I place the brown bin for collection?
A. Please see how to participate in organics collection.

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Q. I set out my brown organics bin and/or my yard waste on my collection day but it was not collected.
A. To report a missed collection, please submit the online missed collections form.

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Q. There is a problem with the bin or starter kit I received.
A. Send us a message online. In the meantime, feel free to place yard waste at the curb on your organics collection days. You can put it in a rigid container labeled “YARD WASTE”, or in paper lawn & leaf bags, or tied in bundles, or in clear plastic recycling bags. Yard waste set out in black plastic bags will be collected as trash.

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Q. How do I keep my bins clean and fresh?
A. Check out tips for maintaining your bin.

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Q. What can I put in the brown bin?
A. See a list of acceptable items that can be thrown in the brown organics bin. As a general rule, "if it grows, it goes" in the brown bin - even meat and dairy!

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Q. I have a lot of yard waste but my brown bin is full. What should I do?
A. Please see how to participate in organics collection. Landscapers cannot set out any yard waste for Sanitation collection; they are required to dispose of it separately at a permitted composting facility. Find more information for landscapers.

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Q. Are meat and bones ok? I can't compost them in my backyard.
A. Yes! Meat, bones, dairy, and greasy/oily foods are all accepted. The conditions at the industrial composting facilities used by DSNY allow for the breakdown of these materials, as well as paper and certified compostable liners, which small-scale and backyard composting systems cannot typically process. See the list of acceptable items.

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Q. Will the food waste attract rodents or bugs?
A. The brown bins are specially designed with raccoon-proof latches and other features to keep out rodents and pests. Traditionally, food waste is mixed with garbage and left on the curb in BAGS overnight, where it is easily accessed by rodents, raccoons, and bugs. DSNY's organics program helps solve this problem by having residents dispose of food waste in a specially designed heavy-duty organics container with a lid that latches shut. To avoid odors and pests, see our tips for maintaining your bin.

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Q. What happens to the organic waste after Sanitation collects it?
A. Most of the organic waste collected from residents through this pilot is taken to local and regional composting facilities, where it is composted on a large scale with industrial equipment. A portion of the organic material collected is converted to renewable energy through the process of anaerobic digestion.

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Q. Why did DSNY choose these areas to implement the pilot?
A. Pilot areas are chosen based on a number of factors, including amount and type of housing stock, district recycling rates, truck routes, and community engagement.

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Q. When will curbside organics collection come to other parts of the city?
A. This is a pilot program and DSNY is assessing its viability. If the pilot is successful, it will be expanded to other parts of the city. DSNY will take resident interest into consideration when making these decisions. To suggest a neighborhood for future possible expansions, send us a message online.

During the pilot,

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Q. Does DSNY offer finished compost to residents and/or community groups?
A. For the current status of DSNY's residential compost give back program, please visit the compost give-back program page. For information about compost and mulch distribution for city agencies and nonprofits, please see compost and mulch distribution.  

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Q. Does DSNY keep track of what I put on the curb?
A. DSNY evaluates participation rates in each pilot area. Each of the brown organics bins provided by DSNY contains a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag that is scanned during collection. The data is being used to understand the popularity of the program and overall participation rates. RFID tags are not being used for enforcement purposes or to track individual household participation.

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School FAQs

We have compiled many of the frequently asked questions from public and private schools and answered them below. If you don't see your question here, ask your school's Sustainability Coordinator, Custodian, Director of Facilities, Kitchen Manager, or Principal.

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General FAQs
How should the cafeteria be set up?
Why do we need to pour liquids into a separate bucket?
What goes in the food waste bin?
What goes in the blue-labeled recycling bin?
What goes in the trash?
Where do beverage pouches go?
Do lunch trays go in the food waste bin or the trash?
Why is composting at school different from backyard composting?
How do we minimize contamination in the food waste bin?
What are the most common contaminants in food waste bin?
Where do we get bins?
How do I discourage someone from stealing our food waste bins?
How can my school participate?

Custodian FAQs
What if there are extra trash bins around the cafeteria that don’t belong to a sorting station?
Can we consolidate bags?
What if my bin cracks, leaks, breaks, or goes missing?
How do we keep the bins clean?
How do I get more posters?
When should the bins be placed out for collection?
Who do I contact in case of a missed collection?
What about night/weekend events with food/snacks provided?
What about large amounts of fallen leaves or grass from garden trimming?
Where can I find more information?

Kitchen Staff FAQs
Where do we get bags?
Can we consolidate bags?
Should we pour bleach in the food waste bins?
Where can I find more information?

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GENERAL FAQs

Q. How should the cafeteria be set up?
A. Please see how to set up a waste sorting station.

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Q. Why do we need to pour liquids into a separate bucket?
A. See What's Collected.

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Q. What goes in the organics bin?
A. See What's Collected.

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Q. What goes in the metal, glass, plastic and carton recycling bin (the one with the blue label)?
A. See What's Collected.

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Q. What goes in the trash?
A. See What's Collected.

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Q. Where do beverage pouches go?
A. See What's Collected.

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Q. Do lunch trays go in the food waste bin or the trash?
A. See What's Collected.

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Q. Why is composting at school different from backyard composting?
A. You’ve probably noticed that under the school organics collection program, meat and bones can be placed into the food waste bin. At home using a worm bin or doing backyard composting, usually only “greens” like vegetable scraps and fruit can be composted. The reason we can accept meat is because the organic waste being collected at schools is brought to large-scale processing facilities that have the ability to manage hard to compost materials.

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Q. How do we minimize contamination in the organics bin?
A. See Minimizing Contamination.

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Q. What are the most common items that contaminate the organics bin?
A. See Minimizing Contamination.

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Q: Where do we get bins?
A: See information about bins.

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Q. How do I discourage someone from stealing our food waste bins?
A. Label the bin with your school code and/or address. Make sure to retrieve bins immediately after they are serviced and store them in a secure location. Ask students to paint or decorate the bins, just be sure to keep the official DSNY decal, bar code and serial number clear and visible. Involving students gives them a sense of pride and ownership in the program. When thinking about decorating the bins, keep in mind that this is a "brown" program (just like paper recycling is green and metal/glass/plastic recycling is blue).

 

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Q. How can my school participate?
A. This program is expected to expand in phases to all NYC public schools and many more private and charter schools across the city in the next few years. DSNY will be determining the order of expansion. If you would like to express your school’s interest in joining the program, recruit other schools around you and inform your local councilmember. Exceptional interest by a cluster of schools is one of the factors at play in determining expansion areas (other factors include geographic location, route logistics, and program capacity).

 

In the meantime, there are other ways your school can be involved in composting, like setting up an indoor worm bin or through outdoor composting. For assistance, contact the NYC Compost Project.

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CUSTODIAN FAQs

Q. What if there are extra trash bins around the cafeteria that don’t belong to a sorting station?
A. Remove trash and recycling bins in the cafeteria that are not part of a sorting station, or add them to a station. All bins in the cafeteria should be part of a sorting station. This allows for convenient source-separation of waste and reduced contamination.

 

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Q. Can we consolidate bags from two organics bins into one?
A.
Yes, but do not place bags inside of one another (i.e. double-bag) because it causes processing issues at the composting facility. Tie each one separately and place one tied bag on top of the other inside the brown bin.

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Q. What if my bin cracks, leaks, breaks, or goes missing?
A. As soon as you notice an issue with your bin, follow the bin replacement policy. Do not wait until you have none left.

 

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Q. How do we keep the bins clean?
A. Public schools and most private schools use clear plastic bags to line their bins which helps to keep them clean. If they still get dirty, rinse them out as needed.

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Q. How do I get more posters?
A. Free posters and materials are available to order through the school materials request form. Orders for organics materials will be fulfilled for schools that are part of the organics program.

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Q. When should the organics bins be placed out for collection?
A. Organics bins must be placed at the curb by 4:00 PM each school day for evening collection. Please be sure to shut the lids completely before placing the bins out, and make sure to bring the bins in as soon as possible after collection. Schools that place bins out after 4:00 PM may miss the truck.

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Q. Who do I contact in case of a missed collection?
A. Missed collections are extremely rare if bins are set out on time. If the bin was placed out after 4:00 PM and you missed your collection, please wait until the following school day to place the bin out at the curb again. If the bin was set out by 4:00 PM on a school day and was not emptied overnight, please contact your local DSNY district office.

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Q. What about night/weekend events with food/snacks provided?
A. For night and weekend events, food waste can be held over for collection the next school day or discard as trash.

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Q. What about large amounts of fallen leaves or grass from garden trimming?
A. Small amounts of leaf, grass and yard waste are OK in the organics bin. Any yard waste that does not fit in the brown bin with the lid closed should be placed in a rigid container and labeled "YARD WASTE", or in paper lawn & leaf bags, or tied in bundles, or in clear plastic recycling bags. Do not use black plastic bags. Yard waste set out in black plastic bags will be collected as trash.

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Q. Where can I find more information?
A. There is a Custodian Tip Sheet with general program information and daily activities. Please post it in the custodian's office. If you have further questions, please contact your supervisor.

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KITCHEN STAFF FAQs

Q. Where do we get bags?
A. Bags are the responsibility of each school. In public schools, clear plastic bags for the brown organics bins are ordered by the Kitchen Manager.

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Q. Can we consolidate bags from two organics bins into one?
A. Yes, but do not place bags inside of one another (i.e. double-bag) because it causes processing issues at the composting facility. Tie each one separately and place one tied bag on top of the other tied bag in the brown bin.

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Q. Should we pour bleach in the food waste bins?
A. No. Do not pour bleach or other chemicals in the food waste bin. Food waste is turned into compost, which is used to grow more food. Chemicals pose serious health and environmental dangers.

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Q. Where can I find more information?
A. There is a Kitchen Tip Sheet with general program information and daily activities. Please post it in the kitchen. If you have further questions, please contact your supervisor.

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