NYC Public Recycling Bins



While browsing the NYC Open Data website, I came across a dataset on New York City’s public recycling bins. I was intrigued to analyze this data because I haven’t seen any recycling bins throughout the city. I have always noticed trash bins filled with various plastic bottles and aluminum cans and wondered if that material would be sorted or just discarded along with other trash. For this lab, I wanted to see where precisely were these recycling bins throughout the boroughs especially Brooklyn, and if they were indoors or outdoors.


First, I obtained the New York City Public Recycling Bin dataset from the NYC Open Data website. Next, in order to visualize the data, I went to the Carto website. Carto is an open-source visualization software where users can run analysis and design custom maps.

Fig 1. Carto website


First, I wanted to see if I could find visualizations of NYC’s public recycling bins so I did a Google search with the words “NYC Public Recycling Bins.”

Fig 2. Google search

I came across two interesting map visualizations with one utilizing Tableau and the other using Carto. The Tableau visualization I found was from a blog post from Bessie Chu, a Product Manager of Big Data analytics reporting solution at GroupM. Bessie’s visualization was on Tableau Public where I was able to see it clearly. I liked how the visualization was shown by site type (Indoor, Outdoor, etc).

Fig 3. Tableau Public visualization of NYC Public Recycling Bins by Bessie Chu

Next, I looked at the Carto visualization of NYC public recycling bins that was created by user jlaurenti.

Fig 4. Carto Public visualization by jlaurenti

Before beginning the lab, I needed to understand how to use Carto as I was unfamiliar with the software. Fortunately, Chris Sula provided several YouTube videos that showed how to utilize Carto including a video on how to create a map.

Next, I signed into Carto and imported the NYC public recycling bins dataset. I wanted to change the map style so I spent some time looking at the various map types. I settled on a Carto map with a Positron style because it looked the best visually.

Fig 5. Changing map style

I then wanted to change the color and size of the points on the map. I chose blue to reflect the commonly used color indicating that a bin/container is for recycling. I also increased the point size to 9.

Fig 6. Changing point color and size

Next, I wanted to add widgets to the map particularly the site type so I can see if the recycle bins were outdoor or indoors. I also added a widget for the address and borough location for the public recycle bins.

Fig 7. Adding widgets

Finally, I wanted to add a pop-up legend to the map so that a user can click on a point and get detailed information about that particular recycle bin. For the Style, I chose Pop-Up Light and clicked on-site type, park site name, and address. I then renamed each to Site Name, Park Name, and Address.

Fig 8. Adding a pop-up legend

After finishing the setup of my visualization, I decided to explore it by seeing how many recycle bins were outside in Brooklyn. I was able to find this information by clicking on Outdoor under the Site Type widget and also clicking on Brooklyn under the borough widget. I discovered that there were 59 recycle bins that were outdoors in Brooklyn.

Fig 9. Finding the total outdoor recycle bins in Brooklyn

Next, I wanted to see if there were any recycle bins in a high pedestrian area such as Times Square. I did a search in the address widget and typed in “42 St” and then clicked on “42 St Btwn Broadway & 7 Ave.” The result showed that there was one outdoor recycle bin in Times Square.

Fig 10. Search for a recycle bin in Time Square


Fig 11. Carto Public Map of NYC Public Recycling Bins


Overall, I enjoyed using Carto for this lab assignment. Carto was user-friendly as it was easy to navigate the various controls to create the map that I wanted. I was not familiar with Carto before this lab and now that I have had some practice with it I look forward to using it for projects that require a map visualization.

I also discovered many interesting insights from the NYC Public Recycling Bins dataset that I was not aware of including that many bins are in park locations and are placed indoors and outdoors. I also saw that Brooklyn had 59 recycled bins that were outdoors and that Manhattan had the most recycled bins than any other borough. I also discovered that Times Square had one recycle bin.

After working with this dataset, I am interested to know if the city would ever put recycled bins next to trash bins at the end of city blocks in the near future. I am also interested in knowing if this dataset will be updated to include additional recycled bins that may be placed throughout the city. In the future, I would like to return to this project to use this map as a locator for recycling bins and to hopefully see an increase in bins added throughout the boroughs.


  1. Carto
  2. NYC Open Data
  3. Public Recycling Bins in NYC Tableau Viz
  4. Thoughts on Learning and Work Blog
  5. Carto Public Viz of NYC Public Recycling Bins by jlaurenti