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Garbage Truck / October 14, 2022

Seattle Land Use Code requires solid waste container storage and access in all new and remodeled buildings in Seattle. This memo serves as a guide to developers in designing effective waste storage and access for residential, multi-family, commercial, and mixed-use developments.

Solid waste plan review process

Developers must submit waste storage and access detail to the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) with all other site plans. SDCI staff consult with Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) as necessary to confirm adequate waste storage and access. At a minimum, SPU reviews all plans that have:

  • Storage or access variant from Land Use Code
  • Trash compactors
  • Multi-family or mixed-use with 10 or more residential units
  • Congregate apartments with more than 20 beds or no curb cut

If site plans cannot meet the waste storage and access requirements in, then developers must submit a detailed plan documenting sufficient waste storage and access and request a rule exemption to be considered and approved by SPU.

Waste storage for apartments or condos

The Land Use Code provides a range of minimum storage space dimensions scaled to different size multi-family projects. These requirements should accommodate:


Multi-family buildings generally require 1 cubic yard per week per 10 housing units (for example, a 40 unit condo could require 4 cubic yards of garbage collected per week). The container size depends on the pickup frequency, which can be one or more times per week. For small buildings, 95 gallon carts (1/2 cubic yard each) can suffice. Medium buildings use dumpsters and many large building use compacted roll-off containers. Dumpster sizes and rates.

Food and yard waste

Most multi-family buildings do not generate much yard waste, but do require a cart for food waste collection. Buildings with up to 50 units can be served by a single 95 gallon cart collected weekly, while larger buildings require multiple carts.


Recycling volume is similar to garbage (1 cubic yard per week per 10 units). Most buildings are served weekly or every other week. Small buildings use 95 gallon carts, medium buildings use 2 or 4 cubic yard dumpsters, and the largest buildings use roll-off compacted containers.

Waste storage for congregate or small efficiency dwelling units

Garbage, recycling, and food and yard waste services and space requirement at these projects are similar to other multi-family developments, as described above. The number of cubic yards per week of garbage and recycling needed would be calculated by dividing the number of bedrooms by 10.

Some apartments do not have a garage or vehicle curb cut. If the number of bedrooms is over 25, then the building would likely have dumpsters and need to have a curb cut installed to access the containers or use an adjacent curb cut.

Resident access to recycling and food waste at apartments or condos

Multi-family buildings must be designed to ensure compliance with Seattle’s required separation of recycling and food waste. This includes convenient and universal resident access to garbage, recycling, and food waste:

  • All garbage receiving areas (such as garbage containers, trash rooms, hall bins, or chutes) should also have recycling and food waste receiving.
  • Small and medium sites – Developments under 75 units have one or more set of collocated sets of containers to serve garbage, recycling, and food waste.
  • Large sites – Large projects with 75 or more units have multiple collocated sets of containers or chutes for garbage, recycling, and food waste. Large projects are served by either waste chutes to handle all three waste streams, or on-floor bins that are emptied by maintenance staff.

Waste storage areas for commercial projects

The Land Use Code provides a range of minimum storage space dimensions scaled to different size of commercial projects. Garbage, recycling, and food waste capacity needs vary by business size and type. All three waste streams are collected one or more times per week. More information on commercial garbage, recycling, and food and yard waste.

Waste storage at mixed-use projects

Mixed-use projects support the waste storage needs described above for both residential and commercial tenants. Garbage services can be provided as a shared or separate services for commercial and residential tenants depending on building management plans. However, residential and commercial recycling and food waste services are different for residential and commercial customers and these services are generally set up separately.

Waste storage areas for houses

The Land Use Code requires minimum waste storage foot print of 2.5 feet by 6 feet for houses to accommodate:

  • Recycling – Carts are 95 gallons and service is free.
  • Service frequencies – Garbage and food and yard waste are collected weekly. Recycling is collected every other week.

Waste storage areas at townhomes

Most townhomes have separate meters and have their own garbage, recycling, and food and yard waste service and bills. These require the same space and containers as houses, described above. Each customer needs to bring the containers to the curb or alley for collection.

However, if the townhomes have a homeowners association or similar financial entity, then the City of Seattle encourages centralized large container multi-family services with one bill. This improves convenience and efficiency for residents and collectors, and reduces congestion on sidewalks.

Waste location and access for all projects

Waste storage areas are on private property and in unobtrusive locations accessible by customers and collection contractors.

  • Most containers cannot be picked up from a main arterial. Trucks may not be able to pick up trash containers from a street with a steep grade.
  • Dumpsters shall be placed so that they will not block building exits, driveways, alleys, or abutting properties. There must be a minimum of 10 feet of lateral clearance (width) in any alley for a sufficient distance where a truck may drive through without obstruction.
  • Containers should be on a flat, level, hard surface with level access to a paved street, alley or parking lot for collection. For dumpsters, there needs to be a curb cut if containers are being moved from a sidewalk to the street for collection.
  • Trucks picking up trash must be able to exit the street or alley by driving forward. (Trucks cannot back up out of a street or alley.)
  • Trucks will require an adequate turning radius to enter alley and access trash containers. Parked cars or other obstacles may prevent a truck from accessing containers.
  • If the storage area is not adjacent to the service right of way, then containers can be temporarily placed in right of way up to 24 hours prior to or following collection.