Help Keep Trash Out of Our Waterways


Local residents and businesses can play an important role in keeping our waterways trash free.

Generate Less Trash

One of the best ways to keep trash and debris from reaching local waterways is to avoid generating this waste in the first place. In addition to keeping waterways clean, this strategy can help preserve natural resources and save money. Both the Department of Sanitation and the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability provide tips and strategies on how to use and waste less.

Become a Harbor Protector

If you are looking for ways to volunteer to help keep your neighborhood and local waterways clean, visit Harbor Protectors to learn more.

Keep Your Street Clean

Litter on the streets is a major source of waterborne trash and debris. Dirty streets can be the result of littering, improper placement of garbage and recycling for curbside collection, and illegal dumping. Here are some ways to help keep our streets clean:

  • Always put trash and recycling in the proper place: The Department of Sanitation maintains approximately 25,000 public litter baskets to help you properly dispose of your light trash when you are out and about. However, there may be times that the public litter baskets are full or there is no basket nearby. In these cases, hold your trash until you reach your destination. (Littering is subject to a hefty fine!)
  • Follow the Department of Sanitation’s instructions for Putting Out Trash and Recycling for Curbside Collection.
  • Regularly Sweep Sidewalks and Gutter Areas in front of your home or business: New Yorkers are required by law to keep clean the sidewalk, tree pits, grass strips, and gutter (defined as up to 18 inches in the street from the sidewalk curb). Violators of this law can receive a Notice of Violation along with a fine.
  • Join or organize a local cleanup.
  • Report Illegal Dumping or Chronic Littering: Many New Yorkers do their part to keep the City clean, but there are still some bad actors. Help us stop repeat offenders by reporting them.


Sometimes New Yorkers can fill litter baskets faster than our sanitation teams can empty them. When this happens, garbage can spill onto the streets and sidewalks. If it rains, this garbage is then carried into the sewer system and potentially into our local waterways. By adopting a litter basket, you can help keep our streets and waterways clean. Learn more about the Adopt-A-Basket Program.


Bluebelts are a preserved natural drainage system such as streams, ponds, and wetland areas. These natural systems help convey, store, and filter stormwater runoff in an ecologically sound and cost-effective manner. Learn more about the Bluebelt Program.

Trash and debris can accumulate in bluebelts, degrading these natural systems. Local community groups, companies and individuals are invited to adopt parts of the Bluebelt. Under the Adopt-a-Bluebelt program, sponsors are offered opportunities to provide maintenance to select Bluebelt locations. Each sponsor's generosity is acknowledged with a sign, displaying their name at the adopted site. To Adopt-a-Bluebelt please call 718-595-6495.

Adopt-a-Highway or Greenway

Trash and debris can accumulate along segments of highway, roadway or greenway. During rain events, this trash and debris can then be washed into local waterways. Adopters often contribute resources to keep these areas clean which helps beautify neighborhoods and keep trash out of waterways. Learn more about the Adopt-a-Highway or Greenway Program.