Office of Sustainability
What is the City doing, and what can you do?
Waste Reduction

The City has begun to look into ways to not only recycle, but to create less waste in the first place. Employees are encouraged to use durable items on the job, such as reusable coffee mugs and water bottles, instead of disposables. New printers in City offices have the capability to print double-sided.

Using electronic communication and record keeping can also eliminate paper waste. A new web-based permitting software will be implemented in fall 2010 to eliminate the printing and copying of more than 160,000 permits and licenses each year. In addition to the environmental benefits, there is an estimated savings of $400,000.

Curbside Recycling

The City also operates a successful recycling program that oversees curbside pick-up, several drop-off locations, special events recycling, and recycling in City-owned facilities. Through "single stream recycling," residents can place all recyclables in the same blue bag at curbside for pick-up. The City provides collection of plastic (#1-5), glass and metal containers, newspapers, magazines, catalogs, paperboard (e.g. cereal boxes, milk cartons), office paper, mixed paper, phonebooks, junk mail, hardback books, and corrugated cardboard. Rinse all containers. Everything but cardboard can be placed in the same blue plastic bag at the curb for pick-up. Corrugated cardboard needs to be flattened in lengths not exceeding 5 ft. and tied. For more information and the schedule for pick-up in your neighborhood, please see collection schedules on the Department of Public Works website.

With single stream recycling, there is no need to separate items by type, which makes it easier for residents to recycle. In fact, following the change to single stream, recycling rates increased over 30% by tonnage.


The City operates five drop-off recycling locations that are free to City residents. Hours of Operation, Location, and Contact Information can be found on the Department of Public Works website.


The City provides composting for leaves and other yard waste to residents. Environmental Service crews pick up leaves curbside at least once in the fall. Residents can also take yard waste to one of the participating DPW drop-off sites. Yard debris, including leaves, grass, plants, tree trimmings, branches, and shrubs are accepted at the East End, Hazelwood, and West End drop-off locations. These sites cannot accept food waste. Yard debris should either be loose or in paper bags; plastic bags will not be accepted. Stones, dirt, rocks, manure, garbage, lumber, and food waste, will NOT be accepted. Proof of residency required. There is no charge for cars and SUVs, but a small fee is applied for trucks and vehicles with trailers. Please call 412-255-2773 for details and the hours of collection for each drop-off location.

Take your Christmas Tree to a designated City Drop-Off location. View the info here.

Residents often question why the yard waste is hauled out of the city to be composted by a third-party contractor, instead of being composted on a vacant lot or in a park. Because of the large quantity of yard waste to be composted, the City must use a facility permitted by the state DEP. Using a third-party contractor ensures environmental protection, stormwater control, odor management, and rodent and pest control.

Please note - While the City does pick up leaves from streets when they are creating a safety hazard, residents are not permitted to rake leaves into the streets. Please call 412-255-2621 for specific details on the removal of leaves and yard waste.

What can you do?

Addressing the amount of waste that you personally produce is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to reduce your environmental impact. Following the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (3Rs) mantra is the recommended way.

Reducing the amount of waste you produce is the most effective way to make a difference. After all, when you don't produce waste in the first place, you don't have to worry about throwing it away or recycling it later. Simple habit changes are key.

Waste reduction examples

  • When Shopping
    Purchase products that have minimal packaging or reusable/recyclable packaging. Choose items that are durable and long lasting, that can also be repaired. Renting equipment can help to avoid unnecessary purchases of items that will only be used a few times. Carry reusable shopping bags to eliminate the need to use disposable plastic and paper bags.
  • At Home or Work
    Try reducing the number of disposable items you use, including plates, cups, silverware, water bottles, and towels.
  • Office Paper
    Set computer defaults to print double-sided, make double-sided copies when possible, and use paper that has already been printed on one side as scratch paper or for faxes. Using electronic communication and processes can also reduce the need for paper.
  • Mail
    You can significantly reduce your junk mail by registering with the Direct Marketing Association's Mail Preference Service. It's easy, reaches some of the largest direct marketers in the country, and only costs $1 to register. Also, paying bills online can greatly reduce the amount of waste produced through the mail.
  • Food
    Pack your lunch with reusable containers, and ask for smaller portions where they are bigger than you can eat. Also, instead of throwing away excess napkins and condiment packages, keep them for the next time you need them.
  • Event Planning
    When planning professional and personal events, inquire about the environmental friendliness of the catering and venue providers. Ask questions like: what is the recycled content of the paper products you use and/or do you provide real kitchen-ware instead of disposables? For more information about green event planning, refer to the EPA's Green Meetings InitiativeExternal site link - opens in a new window or the Green Meetings Industry CouncilExternal site link - opens in a new window.

Reuse is also a very easy and effective way to make an environmental difference in your every day life. The concept is pretty simple. The more products can be reused, the less of them that need to be made and the less that end up in a landfill. This avoids the energy use and pollution across the entire life cycle of the new products that you avoid consuming. There are many simple things that you can do to reuse items in your life.

Reuse examples

  • Buy vintage/used; shop at garage sales.
  • Switch from disposable to reusable food and beverage containers.
  • Donate old items that you no longer use including clothes, computer equipment, and building materials.
  • Repair everything that you can from shoes to electronics.
  • Keep appliances and equipment well maintained to prolong product life.
  • Use leftover glass and plastic containers for food storage.
  • Use sponges or rags instead of paper towels.
  • Purchase rechargeable batteries and a battery charger.
  • Pick up books, CDs and movies from the local library or used book store instead of buying them new.
  • Consider buying and selling used items on websites designed for this purpose.
  • Be creative!

As explained above, residents of Pittsburgh can compost yard waste through Department of Public Works drop-off locations. However, these sites cannot accept food waste. Backyard composting is a practical way to reduce the amount of garbage you send to the landfill while creating a nutrient rich product that can fertilize your garden or yard.

Examples of things that can be composted in your own yard include leaves, grass clippings, fruit and vegetable waste, eggshells, coffee grounds and filters, and tea bags. Items that should not be composted include meat and dairy products, pet wastes, and grease or oil.

For assistance getting started with composting, visit our "Community Connections" page. (Link to composting resources)

Hard to Recycle Items

There are many items and materials that are considered hard to recycle or properly dispose of, including electronic waste (televisions, cell phones, computers), batteries, Freon appliances, compact fluorescent light bulbs, printer cartridges, and paint. Although hard to recycle, it is most important to recycle these items because of the heavy metals and other toxic substances contained in them that can otherwise end up our air and groundwater.

There are also many special collection events and collection sites for these materials run by the City of Pittsburgh, local non-profits, and businesses. The organizations below can provide more information on hard to recycle collection opportunities.


what's this?