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NYC Organics Collection Pilot FAQs

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resident faqs
public 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 but it wasn't collected.
There is a problem with the bin or starter kit I received.
I did not receive a brown bin but I live in the pilot area.
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?
Will Sanitation offer compost to residents through a compost giveback event?
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. Check the pilot area maps to see if your neighborhood is included in the pilot program. Large apartment buildings (10+ units) that are interested in participating should submit an inquiry form to sign up.

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Q. Where can I buy certified compostable bags?
A. You can find certified compostable bags at grocery and home improvement stores in and around the pilot areas. You can also buy bags through major online retailers. Can't find them in your neighborhood? Ask your local store to start carrying them, or call 311 to suggest a store that should carry compostable bags.

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Q. Do I have to buy special bags?
A. You do not have to purchase anything to participate in organics collection. You now have several options for lining your indoor and outdoor organics bins:

  • Kitchen Container: Most people do not line their counter-top containers. Some people use a small compostable bag or liner, and once the bag is full, they discard it in the outdoor brown bin. Find a list and map of stores that sell compostable bags near you.
  • Outdoor Brown Bin: You have 3 options to line your outdoor organics bin.
    • Discard organic waste into the bin without a bag or liner. The bin is a specially designed organics container that tightly seals the waste inside.
    • OR use a brown paper bag, or line with newspaper. Paper bags and newspaper can be composted along with your other organic waste.
    • OR you can use a CLEAR plastic recycling bag (least preferred option since plastic is not compostable).
  • Yard Waste: Put extra yard waste in a rigid container, or in paper lawn & leaf bags, or in clear plastic recycling bags (least preferred option since plastic is not compostable). Tie branches and brush into bundles. Yard waste set out in black plastic bags will be collected as trash.

    Brooklyn & Queens residents must follow the Asian Longhorned Beetle quarantine rules for wood debris. See the Parks Department page on wood debris leaving NYCWasteLess.

NO OTHER PLASTICS are accepted, including plastic shopping bags, plastic food wrap, plastic utensils, etc. Remember to recycle your rigid plastics.

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Q. What day will DSNY collect my organics?
A. In the Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island, DSNY will collect organics every week on your recycling day. If your recycling day falls on a holiday:

  • set out trash after 4:00 p.m. on that holiday for collection beginning the next day.
  • set out organic waste after 4:00 p.m. on that holiday for collection beginning the next day.
  • hold paper/cardboard and metal/glass/plastic/carton recycling until the next week's regular recycling day.

In Brooklyn, organics are collected twice a week on your regular trash days. If your trash day falls on a holiday:

  • set out trash after 4:00 pm on that holiday for collection beginning the next day.
  • hold organic waste until your next regular trash day. 
  • hold paper/cardboard and metal/glass/plastic/carton recycling until your next regular recycling day.

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Q. Where do I place the brown bin for collection?
A. Place the brown organics bin and yard waste on the curb, next to but separate from other trash or recycling.

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Q. I set out my brown organics bin on my recycling day but it was not collected.
A. Send us a message online.

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Q. There is a problem with the bin or starter kit I received.
A. Send us a message online.

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Q. I did not receive a bin but my building is included in the pilot area.
A. Deliveries occur over a two-week timeframe in each new neighborhood, so some residents will receive bins after the first day of collection in their neighborhood.

Send us a message online if your home is in a current pilot area and collection started over one week ago, but you have not received a bin. Buildings with 10 or more residential units must enroll online to participate.

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Q. How do I keep my bins clean and fresh?
A. Inside your home, empty and wash the kitchen collector regularly (the free one provided by DSNY is dishwasher safe!). Lining the collector with compostable bags or another liner will make cleaning up easier. Some participants also store food scraps in bags or containers in the refrigerator or freezer until collection day (frozen food doesn't rot!).

Outside, make sure you keep the brown bin latched and in a shaded area, especially during warm weather. Insects and rodents can be attracted by odors, which arise when there is too much moisture in your bin. To absorb moisture and odors, and to keep the material from sticking to the bottom of the bin, alernate layers of food scraps with yard waste trimmings or newspaper.

You can also line the outdoor bin with a clear plastic recycling bag to make cleanup easier.

Check out the rest of our tips for maintaining your bins.

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Q. What can I put in the brown bin?
A. See a list of organic 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!

Watch out for produce bags, which are often tinted green but are not certified compostable, and fruit & vegetable stickers - do not place these in the brown bin.

See more info on the use of bags, liners, and compostable plastics during the pilot.

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Q. I have a lot of yard waste but my brown bin is full. What should I do?
A. Leave the leaves to us! Set out your yard waste in any of the following: 

  • your brown bin, as space permits
  • paper lawn & leaf bags
  • any rigid container
  • bundles
  • clear plastic recycling bags

All black bags will be collected as trash. 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 during the pilot. 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 organic items that are accepted in the program.

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Q. Will the food waste attract rodents or bugs?
A. Food waste is typically mixed with garbage and left on the curb in black bags overnight, where it is easily accessed by rodents, raccoons, and bugs. The brown bins provided by DSNY have special latches and other features that prevent infestation by rodents, raccoons, and bugs.

To reduce moisture and odors, it is important to keep your bins clean. 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, and community engagement.

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Q. When will curbside organics collection come to other parts of the city?
A. DSNY will take resident interest into consideration if we are able to expand the pilot after spring of 2014. To suggest a neighborhood for future possible expansions, send us a message online.

During the pilot, DSNY will assess the program’s cost effectiveness and its success in reducing the amount of waste going to landfills to determine if this extra service will continue on a permanent basis.

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Q. Will DSNY offer compost to residents through a compost giveback event?
A. DSNY has offered several compost giveback events in previous years but currently does not have plans to host another giveback event. DSNY will explore the feasibility of resuming these events based on results of the pilot.

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Q. Does DSNY keep track of what I put on the curb?
A. DSNY will evaluate participation rates in each pilot area by tracking the number of bins that are set out for collection. While each bin is initially assigned to an address during the bin delivery process using the barcode and radio frequency identification (RFID) tag, no further tracking is done on DSNY's part to track the location or movement of bins.

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Public School FAQs

We have compiled many of the frequently asked questions and answered them below. If you don't see your question here, ask your school's Sustainability Coordinator, Kitchen Manager, or Custodian Engineer. Otherwise, have your Custodian Engineer contact their Deputy Director of Facilities.

You can also find more information on the NYC DOE's Sustainability Initiative's website and GrowNYC's website.

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General FAQs
Why do we collect food waste?
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 recycling bin with the blue label?
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 composting at home?
How do we minimize contamination in the food waste bin?
What are the most common contamination items 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?
What if my bin cracks, leaks, breaks, or goes missing?
Should we wash bins?
Should we pour bleach in the food waste bins?
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 from two food waste bins into one?
Where can I find more information?

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GENERAL FAQs

Q. Why do we collect food waste?
A. Collecting organic material helps NYC control trash disposal costs, achieve its recycling goals, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, generate alternative forms of energy, and create a valuable commodity for local use. DSNY turns your organic waste into alternative energy and compost which is made available to city agencies and nonprofits for use in gardening, soil mitigation, or habitat improvements.

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Q. How should the cafeteria be set up?
A. Each cafeteria should have at least one waste sorting station with the following types of bins:

  • Pour Bucket: for students to empty un-consumed liquids from beverage containers.
  • Metal, Glass, Plastic Recycling bin: for students to place empty milk and juice cartons, bottles, cans, rigid plastic, and any metal and foil items.
  • Food Waste bin: for all uneaten food and food-soiled paper such as napkins and the paper boats from Trayless Tuesdays, as well as fasse lunch trays.
  • Trash bin: for anything else.

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Q. Why do we need to pour liquids into a separate bucket?
A. We use a pour bucket for a few reasons: (1) to make sure that beverage containers are empty when placed into the recycling bin; (2) preventing leaking garbage bags; and (3) because it can be poured down the drain instead of hauled off to a landfill.

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Q. What goes in the organics bin?
A. All types of food waste can go into the organics bin. Also, loose bagasse trays and food-soiled paper like napkins, brown paper lunch bags, and paper boats can go in the food waste bin because paper is fiber and therefore compostable. However, all clean paper should be recycled in the paper recycling bin! See a list of items that can be put in the organics bin.

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Q. What goes in the metal, glass, and plastic recycling bin (blue label)?
A. All rigid plastics (like disposable cutlery, yogurt cups, and other plastic food containers) and empty milk/juice cartons, bottles, cans, metal, and foil.

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Q. What goes in the trash?
A. Anything that does not go in the liquids bucket, recycling bins, or food waste bin goes in the trash. Examples include straws, beverage pouches, food wrappers, plastic baggies, and foam trays.

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Q. Where do beverage pouches go?
A. Unlike milk and juice cartons, beverage pouches are not recyclable. Beverage pouches go in the trash.

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Q. Do lunch trays go in the food waste bin or the trash?
A. This depends on the type of tray your school uses. Foam trays are TRASH. Bagasse trays go in the organics bin. Paper boats are also fiber-based and should be placed in the organics bin. If you don’t know what type of tray your school uses, your kitchen manager should be able to tell you.

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Q. Why is composting at school different from composting at home?
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 break down complex food types.

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Q. How do we minimize contamination in the organics bin?
A. The best way to keep contamination levels down is through education and active bin monitoring. When students and staff are knowledgeable about the program and taught how to separate their waste, contamination levels go down. We highly encourage teachers to incorporate the message into their classroom learning.

Another effective measure is using a student Green Team to monitor the bins during lunch periods, reminding participants where different materials should be placed.

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Q. What are the most common items that contaminate the organics bin?
A. The most commonly misplaced items include foam trays, milk cartons, bottles, sandwich wrap, chip bags, ketchup packets and plastic fruit cups.

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Q: Where do we get bins?
A: Currently, organic waste bins are provided to your school prior to the start of the program. If your school loses a bin or it is stolen, your school is required to file a police report. After submitting the report to DSNY, the bin will be replaced.

Recycling bins are the responsibility of each school to procure. The color of recycling bins does not matter as long as they are labeled with the correct decal (blue for metal, glass, and plastic; green for paper - order them using the online order form).

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Q. How do I discourage someone from stealing our food waste bins?
A. First, make sure to retrieve the bin immediately after it is serviced. Store it in a secure location.

Additionally, having students paint or decorate the bins is a good theft deterrent. It also gets students involved and gives them a sense of pride and ownership in the program. Just don’t forget to keep the decal clear and visible. 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 citywide in the next few years. 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 (other factors include geographic location, route logistics, and proximity of the school to an organics processing facility).

In the meantime, there are other ways your school can be involved in composting, such as contacting 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 orphan trash or recycling bins in the cafeteria that are not part of a sorting station. All bins in the cafeteria should be part of a sorting station. This allows for convenient source-separation of waste.

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Q. What if my bin cracks, leaks, breaks, or goes missing?
A. Report any incidents to the head custodian. If a bin is stolen or lost, a police report must be filed and a copy provided to DSNY. If a bin breaks, do not throw it out. It must be returned to DSNY.

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Q. Should we wash bins?
A. In order to keep the bins clean, rinse them out as needed.

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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, it will render the compost unusable. Compost is used to grow food and spread on gardens, and chemicals pose serious health and environmental danger.

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Q. How do I get more posters?
A. Posters are available for order through the organics school ordering form. Orders will only 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 on the curb by 4:00PM each weekday for nightly collection. Please be sure to secure the lids before placing the bins out on the curb, and make sure to bring the bins in immediately after collection. Schools that place bins out later than 4:00PM 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 by 4:00PM. If the organics bin was set out by 4:00PM on a weekday and was not emptied overnight, please notify your DDF.

If the bin was not placed out before 4:00PM, please wait until the following school day to place the bin out at the curb for collection.

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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.

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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; large amounts need to be placed in paper lawn & leaf bags, rigid containers, or clear plastic recycling bags.

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Q. Where can I find more information?
A. There is a “Custodian Tips” sheet posted in your school that you can reference. If you have further questions, please contact your head custodian or DDF.

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KITCHEN STAFF FAQs

Q. Where do we get bags?
A. Bags need to be ordered by your Kitchen Manager along with regular inventory orders.

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

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Q. Where can I find more information?
A. There is a “Kitchen Tips” sheet posted in the kitchen that you can reference. If you have further questions, please contact your Kitchen Manager.

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