University of New Hampshire move in sale. Instead of going in the trash, outgoing students’ unwanted stuff helps new students furnish their dorm rooms.  

Institutional Waste Stream and Rules

DSNY provides waste collection for city agencies and many large institutions, which must follow department rules. The rules require that a recycling coordinator be appointed to oversee a recycling program conforming to city regulations. Institutions may also have private carter pickup to supplement the service offered by DSNY, provided such private pickups conform to the recycling and other rules for private carter collection. DSNY does not separate waste data for institutions or city agencies; see the residential section for composition of all DSNY-collected waste.

Public Schools

For Zero Waste Schools, a OneNYC initiative, DSNY partnered with DOE to improve school waste management and identify best practices that could be expanded to school facilities citywide. DSNY also funds GrowNYC’s Recycling Champions to work with DOE to educate students and staff about the importance of zero waste.

Most schools do not have dishwashing facilities. Until recently, lunch was served on polystyrene trays, resulting in a million unrecyclable trays per day. DOE worked with Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Urban School Food Alliance to procure trays made of compostable paper instead, and DSNY has added equipment that allows these trays to be composted.

DOE serves lunch to 1 million children every day on compostable plates

School facilities often house multiple schools within one building, along with after-school and independent programs, increasing the difficulty of developing standard procedures to manage waste.

Schools in general grapple with a high volume of food waste and related disposable dishware, drinks containers and paper streams.

Typical school setout with organics bins

New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA)

Many NYCHA buildings did not have recycling bins or separate recycling pickups until recently. Many have small chutes in the corridors, with no room allocated per floor for recycling. See Residential Typology 3, and how NYCHA, DSNY, GrowNYC, Green City Force and NYC Service worked to bring recycling to all NYCHA developments by December 2016. Exterior recycling bins are now on concrete pads, often midway between two or more buildings. NYCHA is working on a comprehensive recycling plan to incorporate food-scrap management and increase recycling in its buildings citywide.

NYCHA recycling station


Universities may have DSNY or private carter pickup; some have both. Universities typically have their own standards and policies for reducing the volume of discards and maximizing the degree of diversion from disposal. Large campuses have their own challenges in maintaining consistent standards of operation, but campus-scale operations also present many opportunities for sharing equipment and efficiently consolidating waste management.

Campuses generate high volumes of food-service-related waste, food, disposable dishware, drinks containers and bottles and cans, as well as paper. Some also have to manage significant volumes of regulated laboratory waste streams. And dorm-generated waste includes a large amount of cardboard related to the high volume of package deliveries.

The especially high rate of residential turnover at universities is accompanied by a high volume of bulk items left annually on campus, with limited to no staging area. Many universities have programs to reduce this, such as a University Sustainability Office, University Sustainability Principles, peer-to-peer education, student groups and intercollegiate recycling competitions. Also, tools like Freecycle and bulk-item donation programs are place on many NYC campuses. Students are often motivated to recycle and actively engage in the sharing economy.

DOE school waste station


Hospitals have unique waste-management issues, with high-volume streams of disposable waste generated through the need to maintain sanitary protection. They also have specific regulated medical waste streams, including “sharps” (needles and disposable blades) and biological and pharmaceutical wastes, which require strict handling. Food waste is a big issue in the hospital context, and policies to reduce kitchen and serving-tray waste—as well as to divert organic waste from disposal—can have a major impact.

Typologies and Best Practices

New York’s institutional buildings have many types of uses but correspond to commercial typologies for waste management or, in the case of university dormitories, residential typologies. Refer to the relevant typologies and best practice strategies.

Next Section: Residential, Commercial & Institutional 
Best Practice Strategies →