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School Recycling Checklist

Use this checklist to ensure that every area of your school is correctly set up for recycling.

All Recycling Areas

Label every bin with a decal. It is helpful to hang signs or posters above recycling areas showing what goes in the bin. Get free decals, signage, and education materials.

  • Line bins for metal, glass, plastic, and cartons and bins for trash with clear plastic liners. Bins for clean paper and cardboard don't need to be lined. Never use black bags for recyclables.
  • Place recycling and trash bins directly next to one another. If you move bins around, always return bins to same location to avoid confusion.
  • Make sure cleaning staff empties recycling and garbage from each bin into the proper bag. Do not mix recycling and garbage in the same bag.

What To Put Where

  • Put all clean paper and cardboard into recycling bins with green DSNY decals (or clearly labeled "Mixed Paper").
  • Keep corrugated cardboard boxes separate for recycling; flatten and stack.
  • Put all metal, glass, plastic, and cartons into recycling bins with blue DSNY decals (or clearly labeled "METAL, GLASS, PLASTIC, & CARTONS").
  • Empty food or beverages from all containers before recycling. Set up a liquids bucket for students to dump leftover beverages in the cafeteria.
  • If your school has NYC Organics Collection, put food waste, food-soiled paper, and compostable trays in the brown organics bin provided by DSNY.
  • For schools without NYC Organics Collection, food waste goes in the garbage.
  • Discard wax- and plastic-coated paper packaging with garbage.

Classrooms

Classrooms typically have a 2- or 3-bin recycling setup:

  • Small recycling bin with green DSNY decal, or clearly labeled "Mixed Paper"
  • Garbage bin
  • Some schools set up a small recycling bin with blue DSNY decal or clearly labeled "METAL, GLASS, PLASTIC, & CARTONS," if drinks are allowed in classrooms

Offices

Set up 3-bin system, since staff discard bottles, cans, and plastics:

  • Small recycling bin at each desk with green DSNY decal, or clearly labeled "Mixed Paper"
  • Shared garbage bins, centrally located
  • Small centrally located recycling bin with blue DSNY decal or clearly labeled "METAL, GLASS, PLASTIC, & CARTONS,"

Entranceways, Common Areas, Teachers' Lounge/Cafeteria

Use 3 larger bins in common areas:

  • Recycling bins with green DSNY decals (or clearly labeled "Mixed Paper")
  • Recycling bins with blue DSNY decals (or clearly labeled "METAL, GLASS, PLASTIC, & CARTONS,")
  • A garbage bin

Cafeteria Waste Sorting Stations

Set up as many waste sorting stations as needed:

  • A bucket for students to empty liquids from bottles, cans, cartons, and cups before recycling. Add a colander or strainer to prevent cartons and straws from getting dropped in the liquids.
  • Recycling bins with blue DSNY decals (or clearly labeled "METAL, GLASS, PLASTIC, & CARTONS,")
  • Garbage bin, to avoid contamination of recycling bins (and for food waste in schools without NYC Organics Collection)
  • Recycling bins with green DSNY decals (or clearly labeled "MIXED PAPER"), if paper is discarded here; for example, if this room is often used for meetings, or if clean paper boats are recycled
  • Brown organics bin for schools with NYC Organics Collection

School Kitchen

Set up bins where they're most needed:

  • For schools with NYC Organics Collection, a brown organics bin
  • Recycling bins with blue DSNY decals (or clearly labeled "METAL, GLASS, PLASTIC, & CARTONS")
  • A garbage bin, to avoid contamination of recycling bins (and for food waste in schools without NYC Organics Collection)
  • Recycling bins with green DSNY decals (or clearly labeled "Mixed Paper")
  • A space for corrugated cardboard boxes

Recycling Storage Areas

Keep recyclables separate from trash during internal collection and at indoor or outdoor storage areas:

  • Store recyclables in a secure location that's clearly labeled as the Recycling Area.
  • Collect and all recyclables in clear bags, never in the same bags with garbage.
  • Store and set out recyclables and garbage in three separate piles or areas for DSNY collection.
  • Flatten and tie corrugated cardboard into bundles no more than 18" high, or place in CLEAR bags.
  • Recycle bulk metal, such as metal furniture, file cabinets, and appliances (cooling equipment requires special handling); place at the curb when other metal recyclables are collected.
  • For schools with NYC Organics Collection, store food waste and food-soiled paper ONLY in the brown organics bin provided by DSNY until curbside collection.