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Seattle Land Use Code SMC 23.54.040 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.
Please reference the SPU Checklist for Developers - Solid Waste Storage & Service.
SPU review of solid waste storage, access and service plans for most new developments and most renovations of existing buildings is required. Developers must also submit waste storage and access details to the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) with all other site plans. SPU staff review solid waste plans to ensure compliance with code for adequate waste storage, resident and tenant access, and truck access. At a minimum, SPU reviews all plans that:
SPU solid waste contracts staff typically review plans within a week of receipt and work with the architect or developer over several weeks or more, depending on complexity and design phase, to make any necessary changes to the plans. Once plans are agreed upon, SPU solid waste inspectors and the contracted solid waste hauler review the plans and either ask additional questions or provide their approval. SPU contracts staff then write an approval letter and provide it to the primary contact for the project. The letter with the approved solid waste plan page is also uploaded to Accela for SDCI documentation.
The Land Use Code provides a range of minimum storage space dimensions scaled to different size multi-family projects (Table A in SMC 23.54.040). 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.
Most multi-family buildings do not generate much yard waste, but do require a cart for food waste collection. Provide one cart for every 50 units (1-50 units = 1 cart; 51-100 units = 2 carts, etc).
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.
Solid waste storage and service requirements for garbage, recycling and food & yard waste are similar to other multifamily developments as described above.
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.
Live-work units are considered residential for solid waste storage and service. Please follow single-family guidelines.
Multi-family buildings must be designed to ensure compliance with Seattle’s required separation of recycling and food waste (SMC 21.36.082). This includes convenient and universal resident access to garbage, recycling, and food waste:
The Land Use Code provides a range of minimum storage space dimensions scaled to different size of commercial projects (Table A in SMC 23.54.040). 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.
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.
A minimum waste storage footprint of 3 feet by 6 feet is required for houses to accommodate:
Townhome developments with fewer than 8 units may have their own garbage, recycling, and food and yard waste service and bills. These require the same storage space and containers as houses, described above. Each customer needs to bring the containers to the curb or alley for collection.
For townhome developments with 8 or more units, the City of Seattle encourages centralized large container services with one bill. This improves convenience and efficiency for residents and collectors, and reduces congestion on sidewalks. The formation of an HOA is required for shared solid waste service.
Townhouse developments require the same per-unit capacity for recycling and garbage as single-family homes. For example, a 30-unit project would require 7.5 cubic yards/week of recycling and 7.5 cubic yards/week of garbage (1/2 yard/unit/every other week).
The number of shared 96g carts for food and yard waste depends on the presence of and size of yards and green space that exist within the development.
Waste storage areas are on private property and in unobtrusive locations accessible by customers and collection contractors.
Developers should be aware that additional monthly access fees could apply for certain ancillary activities (SMC 21.40.060, Section L), such as if containers are more than 25 feet from the right of way, or if it is necessary to unlock an area to access to the container, or if larger containers must be repositioned to align with truck lifts.
Developers are required to properly dispose of and recycle waste generated during demolition and construction phases of all projects.
After construction, developers or owners will need to request new services when a building is ready for occupancy: