Waste Reduction and Recycling

All NYC Public Schools are required to follow the NYC Department of Sanitation’s (DSNY) waste and recycling guidelines. There are many benefits to reducing waste in our schools. 

  • Composting food scraps and recycling paper, metal, glass, plastic & cartons reduces the material sent to landfills. 
  • Using latched containers to store food scraps and food-soiled paper reduces rodent populations and keeps schools and sidewalks clean.
  • Food scraps and food-soiled paper can be turned into compost, a natural soil amendment, or into biofuel, a form of renewable energy.
  • Recycling and composting provide an opportunity for hands-on learning in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Recycling and Waste Guide

Our partners DSNY and GrowNYC created a Zero Waste Guide specifically for schools.

This guide covers recycling setups for classrooms, cafeterias, and other areas. It also covers roles, responsibilities, and tools needed for sorting materials.

This guide helps schools divert all recyclable materials, and compostable materials like food scraps and fool-soiled paper.

Curbside Compost Expansion

Over 1,200 schools now participate in the DSNY Curbside Compost program. Schools receive specialized training, equipment, and ongoing support to make composting a success.

All Bronx schools have Curbside Compost as of Spring 2023!

We will complete the expansion of Curbside Compost to every NYC public school by the end of the 2023-24 school year. 

Plastic Free Lunch Day (PFLD)

After a pilot program in Spring 2022, we now work with Cafeteria Culture and the DOE Office of Food & Nutrition Services on monthly Plastic Free Lunch Days.

All elementary school kitchens should be automatically participating in Plastic Free Lunch Days by serving lunches without plastic packaging. If your kitchen staff is not aware of PFLD, please ask the cook in charge to speak with the School Food Service Manager of the site to partner on ways to implement PFLD and reduce plastic use.

Middle and high school kitchens have different types of meal service than elementary schools, but they can still reduce the use of plastics via staff and student engagement. Here are some ideas:

  • Encourage students & staff to bring their own bottles & safe reusable cutlery – a raffle or prize can be a good incentive for participation
  • Designate a few students/staff each lunch period to perform a Plastic Waste Audit
  • Focus on reducing one kind of single-use plastic packaging, such as straws or condiment packets (dispense from squeeze bottles or spoon/ladle onto student plates)
  • Lead a "Take Only What You Need" campaign - dispense utensils, napkins, and other single-use items by request only instead of automatically serving with each meal 
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