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NYC - recycle more, waste less New York City Recycles NYC Department of Sanitation
Organics Collection for Public Schools


pilot areas
what goes in the organics bin
cafeteria set-up
school responsibilities
educational materials
resource recovery
collection and holiday schedule
more resources

school materials request form
bin requirements
bag requirements

Pilot Areas

NYC Organics Collection is rolling out service to selected geographic areas in all five boroughs (view the map). By spring 2014, there will be over 300 NYC DOE public schools enrolled in the program throughout Manhattan, Staten Island and Brooklyn. The Bronx and Queens are targeted for expansion starting fall 2014.

For a list of schools that are currently part of the program and schools that are slated to be added to the program, please visit the Organics Collection List of Participating Schools  on the NYC DOE Sustainability Initiative's website. 

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What Goes in the Organics Bin

In addition to the general materials acceptable for organics collection, schools can also place paper boats (used citywide on "Trayless Tuesdays" ) and plant-based compostable trays (if your school uses them) in the organics collection bin. Do not put foam trays in the organics bin; they belong in the trash.

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Cafeteria Set-Up

The location and number of sorting stations will depend on each school's cafeteria size and layout, student population, lunch period schedule, and student and employee preferences, and generally what works for you.

At a minimum, every cafeteria should have at least one waste sorting station with:

  • a bucket for excess liquids
  • a metal/glass/plastic recycling bin
  • trash bin
  • food waste bin

Sorting stations should be set up in the same location every day. The point of consistent bin placement is to build student habits. Each sorting station has a set of posters that should be used to indicate the different bins in the station. We recommend hanging the posters directly above each bin.

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School Responsibilities

Principals, custodians, food service staff, sustainability coordinators, teachers, and students all have responsibilities to make sure organics are collected separate from trash and recycling.

Setup and Maintenance

  • SchoolFood staff is responsible for setting up and maintaining an organics bin in the kitchen, and waste sorting stations in the cafeteria that include a liquids bucket, a metal, glass & plastic recycling bin, an organics collection bin, and a trash can. Each bin should have a designated sign above it.
  • SchoolFood staff can purchase bin liners through the standard Department of Education procurement process.
  • Custodians are responsible for washing bins as needed, and cleaning floors, walls and any spills regularly.

Organics Collection

  • Principals, custodians, food service staff, teachers, and students are expected to dispose of all food scraps, soiled paper (napkins) and compostable trays in the organics bin.
  • Custodians handle internal collection of organics as well as daily set-out, retrieval, and storage of bins.
  • Designated recyclables (cardboard & paper and metal, glass & plastic) or trash should never be placed in the same bin or bag with organic waste.
  • Custodians should place bins on the curb by 4PM every day Monday-Friday.
  • Collection will occur between 4PM and MIDNIGHT.
  • Store bins in a secure location.
  • If a bin has not been serviced by MIDNIGHT, hold the bin over until the following day's collection.
  • For night and weekend events, hold food waste over until the next collection day, or discard food waste with the regular trash.

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Educational Materials

BWPRR works diligently with DOE and GrowNYC to create education tools and resources to help schools implement organics collection successfully. Please take advantage of these materials in your school. All of the materials are free to order on our school materials request form or download.

NYC Organics Collection Flyer

The NYC Organics Collection program flyer provides general information and procedures about the Organics Collection program.


Posters should be hung above each bin in the cafeteria sorting station to identify what goes in them. There are posters for: the liquids pour bucket, the metal/glass/plastic recycling bin, the trash/landfill bin, and the organics bin. These large (18'x24") laminated posters can be ordered by schools participating in the organics program using the organics school order form. You can also print out samples by clicking on the image below and opening the PDF.


Tip Sheets

The kitchen tip sheet and the custodial tip sheet summarize action points for kitchen and custodial staff under the food waste collection program. The tips sheets are a good quick reference, and can be displayed in kitchen and custodial areas.

kitchen tip sheet 

custodial tip sheet

GrowNYC Educational Materials

Visit GrowNYC's website for additional detailed instructional and informational materials, including:

  • Organics Collection Overview
    • for faculty, staff and parents
    • for custodians and SchoolFood
  • Guide to Organics Collection
    • cafeteria setup guide
    • frequently asked questions
  • Faculty Resources
    • faculty & staff presentation
    • faculty & staff handout
  • Elementary Student Resources
    • handout with game
    • presentation
    • recycling monitors guide
  • Middle & High School Student Resources
    • middle school student handout
    • high school student handout
    • MS/HS presentation

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The NYC Department of Sanitation and Department of Education joined forces to create Step It Up! A video promoting organics collection in NYC schools, featuring LaGuardia High School students and alumni.

Also available on Vimeo

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Comprehensive Resource Recovery at Schools

School waste is comprised mostly of paper and cardboard and organics. By adding organics collection to regular paper and cardboard recycling and metal/glass/plastic recycling, schools have the opportunity to divert the vast majority of waste generated (up to 80% by weight)! This responsible resource recovery. To learn more about recycling, visit recycling in schools.

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Collection and Holiday Schedule

Collection days and times differ depending on material type, so please pay careful attention to your school's collection schedule. The chart below outlines general collection guidelines for schools in the Organics Collection program.

Material Type


Collection Day


Set out by 4 PM
on collection day
in latched organics bins



Set out by 4 PM
on collection day
in clear bags or bundles



Set out after 5PM
 on day before
in clear bags

Unique to your building
Look it up
Enter your building address
under "Collection Schedule"


Set out after 5PM
 on day before
in clear bags

Unique to your building
Look it up
Enter your building address
under "Collection Schedule"

For an individualized schedule, please download your school's unique collection schedule (PDF). This flyer shows the collection schedule for each school building in the organics collection program. Look up your school, extract and print the page, and post it in an area easily viewable by custodial staff.

During holiday weeks, DSNY provides alternative service. Please reference the holiday collection schedule (PDF).

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More Resources

DOE Sustainability Initiative

DOE has extensive resources about sustainability on the DOE Sustainability Initiative website, coming soon. You will be able to find resources for Sustainability Coordinators, custodian engineers, teachers, students, and more!


GrowNYC is a hands-on education nonprofit in close partnership with DSNY and NYC DOE. See the GrowNYC  website for resources about the school organics collection program. GrowNYC is also available to help your school conduct outreach and education on organics collection and regular recycling.

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