Trash and Treasure: How the New York Department of Sanitation Became More Than Just a Garbage Company

The New York Department of Sanitation isn't just a waste removal service: it’s a fountain of information and resources. Here’s how DSNY uses strong branding and effective communication to get New Yorkers on their side.

The New York Department of Sanitation uses strategic marketing and branding moves to prove it’s anything but trash.

With an army of 7,800 employees, 7,400 truck routes per week, and 59 districts to clean up, the New York Department of Sanitation (DSNY) has a lot on its plate. Every day millions of New Yorkers wake up and go about their day, tossing empty coffee cups and wrappers from their morning bagels into garbage cans, never to be seen again—except by the DSNY. 

How does the largest sanitation organization on earth handle one of the dirtiest cities in the country? It’s simple—accessibility, sustainability, and likability. 

(Trash) talk of the town: How the New York Department of Sanitation wins its city over

Everyone has trash. And in a city as diverse as New York, information has to be easily accessible so that everyone can understand the city’s garbage collection process. That’s why the DSNY website can be translated in over 100 languages. 

It’s also available on several platforms. The DSNY Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, are regularly updated with all things concerning the DSNY. These accounts, and corresponding accounts like @nyczerowaste, update often, so that NY residents are less likely to miss out on important information. 

Scrolling through these posts, you’ll find images of people working in community gardens, snow plows cleaning up icy streets throughout the city, and DSNY workers in action. These pictures show the DSNY being part of the community and this added human element is what draws people in.

With increased concern surrounding climate change, prioritizing environmental efforts is a must. The DSNY’s zero waste initiatives aim to prevent recyclables and reusable materials from ending up in landfills. 

They offer educational materials so you can do it at home, and provide information for schools and businesses to attempt zero waste lifestyles. You can find data surrounding the impact of these initiatives on their website too, which proves to the audience that they’re dedicated to this issue and seeing results. 

Keeping it fresh

For an organization with such a long history, being consistently reliable and effective is key. DSNY uses branding strategies that show the audience they can be trusted year after year.

The DSNY website uses language that provides the most important information in an easily-digestible manner. Everything on the website just makes sense. The subheadings and sections swiftly guide the audience where they need to go. 

Educational resources and information about how to work with the DSNY are placed under the resources tab which leads you to all the necessary information. You can find press releases, data regarding their recycling initiatives, and detailed guides for recycling at home, at school, and at work. 

People know what to expect when they enter the website or see a new social media post from the DSNY. That reliability is what keeps them coming back. 

More than meets the eye: How the New York Department of Sanitation keeps its audience

Trash is a natural part of any city, and it sometimes feels like trash is a major part of this one. Happily, DSNY takes a stinky subject and makes it special. By spearheading sustainability efforts, this company proves it’s more than just trash disposal. 

The Sanitation Foundation was established in 2016 as the official non-profit organization of the DSNY. The goal is to establish communication and connections between institutions and the community in an effort to decrease waste production across the city—through art. From art shows, to fairs, even to New York Fashion Week, they show the city how far sanitation and environmental efforts can go. 

The organization also hopes to open an NYC Sanitation Museum in the future, but in the meantime maintains Treasures in the Trash, a curated exhibit by retired sanitation worker Nelson Molina. Through art, the DSNY proves that looking through trash can be fun and rewarding. They set themselves apart from any other garbage collection service by connecting with their audience on a deeper level and developing lasting relationships. 

The DSNY not only has a duty to clean up 6,300 miles of winding New York streets, it also has a duty to preserve it. Think of the accumulated trash in New York for the past 100+ years as a looking glass into the past. Now picture that in a museum! 

MarketSmiths Case Study

An organization that helps childbearing women across the United States, Choices in Childhood has a crucial job—not least given the woeful mother and infant health outcomes. But without a website to match, it was struggling to connect with its audience. But after approaching MarketSmiths, we crafted 20 pages of copy to match their mission, every word both accessible and inspiring. Once we were done, we’d helped Choices in Childbirth banish stigma around alternative birthing, and boosted their standing among women and other NGOs alike.

> Read the full case study here

Bin there, done that? 

DSNY has solidified itself as an entity that works for the community by working with the community. The brand centers around maintaining a healthy, clean city and in the process of accomplishing that, it makes for a more unified and sustainable community.

DSNY is known as The World’s Strongest. They’ve proven to live up to this phrase with strong branding, strong communication, and strong humanitarian efforts. They’re part of what makes New York, New York. 

Looking for clean copy that delivers every time? Our team of polished writing professionals can help. Contact us for sparkling copy across all of your business needs.

Katie Bashista

Katie Bashista

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