Share

City of Cambridge

Curbside Pickup of Trash, Recycling, and Yard Waste

Public Works

Trash Can and Recycle Bin

Public Works provides weekly curbside pickup of household trash, as well as weekly pickup of household recycling and yard waste by a private contractor.  Yard waste is collected April 1 through the second full week of December.  The City is divided into five districts, to provide these services throughout the City on a five-day week, Monday through Friday.  Curbside collection is always one day behind schedule following a holiday.

Tips and FAQs

My trash was not picked up on my regular collection day

All material must be set at the curb by 7 a.m. on collection day or after 6 p.m. the night before. If you think your recycling, trash or yard waste was missed, please call DPW at 617-349-4800 with your address, a return phone number and what was missed.

If you have reported missed recycling, yard waste or trash by 12 p.m. the day following collection, you can expect pickup no later than the next collection day. Typically, collection trucks go back for missed pickups after completing the current day’s route. Please leave the missed items at the curb to ensure collection. 

Why did I get a ticket for putting out my trash too early? What is the rule?

Trash in barrels with tight-fitting lids cannot be placed on the curb until 6 p.m. the night before collection. Trash in plastic bags can only be placed at the curb on collection day, no later than 7 a.m. Only heavy duty plastic bags are accepted. Emptied receptacles need to be removed from the curb by 6 p.m. on the day of pickup.

What size trash barrel or trash bag can I use?

Trash barrels and bags cannot exceed 50 gallons or 50 pounds.  Trash bags must be heavy duty, no thin grocery or kitchen bags allowed.  Barrels larger than 50 gallons will be rejected.

City Ordinance limits the weight and size of trash barrels to 50 pounds to protect rubbish workers from injury. The large recycling toters on wheels provided by the City are allowed because the recycling trucks mechanically lift and empty them into the truck.

The Coalition for the Homeless will schedule free pickups of furniture in good condition from your home in Cambridge for the last Friday and the first Monday of every month, except holidays.

What types of items can I put out for trash pickup?

Check out our Get Rid of it Right page, with details on how to recycle, donate or dispose of just about anything including furniture, appliances and electronics. Please note the Coalition for the Homeless will schedule free pickups of furniture in good condition from your home in Cambridge for the last Friday and the first Monday of every month, except holidays.

Remember that recycling is mandatory in Cambridge.  Please make sure to recycle glass, metal, & plastic containers, paper, cardboard, and yard waste.

Do not place hazardous products in the trash and never pour them down catch basins or drains.  Bring hazardous items to an upcoming hazardous waste collection including paint, chemicals, fluorescent bulbs, fuels, tires, car batteries, propane tanks. Alkaline batteries may be disposed in the trash.

How do I get rid of Household Hazardous Waste (HHW)?

Do not place hazardous products in the trash and never pour down any catch basin or drain.  The City sponsors several annual household hazardous waste collections where we accept car batteries, chemicals, fluorescent bulbs, fuels, paint, propane tanks, and tires.

I'm aware that the City requires trash barrels to have tight-fitting lids, but my lids "disappeared" after trash collection.

Public Works Managers will continue to work with rubbish workers to ensure that trash barrels and lids are put back in front of the property where they were set out. 

You may also attach the handles of your lid and barrel with a piece of rope. Local retailers also sell trash barrels with attached lids.

Why was my recycling not picked up?

Recycling and yard waste must be set out by 7am on your collection day, or after 6pm the night before.

If your recycling was missed, please report it by 12 noon the following day. You may use Commonwealth Connect or call 617-349-4800.  We will need to know your address, daytime phone number and a quick description (ex. 3 bags yard waste, 2 toters, 1 blue bin).

The recycling trucks go back for missed recycling after they have completed their regular route.

Why is there an orange sticker on my recycling?

Please avoid these common problems to ensure pickup of your recycling or yard waste:

  • No Plastic Bags for Recycling
    The recycling processing plant does not accept plastic bags because they jam the equipment and cause damage. Most plastic bags (#2) can be brought to your local grocery store for recycling and also to the Recycling Drop-Off Center.
  • No Plastic Bags for Yard Waste
    Plastic bags will not decompose with your leaf and yard waste. Please note that rubbish or recycling crews will not pick up yard waste in plastic bags. Click here for proper yard waste preparation instructions.
  • Dirty (Contaminated) Recyclables
    Containers that are not rinsed out and paper/cardboard with food waste can contaminate the rest of the truckload and result in additional processing costs.
  • No Dirt, Rocks or Large Tree Limbs for Yard Waste
    You must call a private hauler for these materials.
  • Heavy Barrel or Bag of Yard Waste
    Our drivers cannot lift heavy barrels or bags of yard waste. Usually heavy yard waste set-outs contain large amounts of wet leaves, excessive amounts of soil on roots, and so forth. Please divide this material into two bags or barrels and put it out for collection on your next collection day. 

How can I get a recycling "toter" on wheels?

Recycling Toters

Toters are available to all residential buildings, city buildings and houses of worship. Click here to request a toter.

Convert a Trash Barrel 

Did you know that similar to the yard waste program, residents can convert any 32-gallon barrel for recycling? Click here to request a sticker, or call 617-349-4800. Just face the sticker to the street when using for recycling.

When is yard waste collection and what is accepted?

Separate yard waste begins the first FULL week in April and continues through the second FULL week in December. Place yard waste at the curb by 7am on your collection day, or after 6pm the day before.

Remember that yard waste is not accepted in plastic bags. Yard waste is banned from landfills and incinerators in Massachusetts. All yard waste collected goes to a local composting facility.

Place yard waste in paper refuse bags or barrels labeled with yard waste stickers. Call 617.349.4800 for stickers.

Materials accepted

Leaves, grass, plants and shrub prunings and twigs no more than 1 inch in diameter or 3 feet in length.  We will collect up to 3 bundles of thick limbs no more than 3 feet by 3 feet. 

Materials not accepted

No dirt, food, sand, soil, rocks, tree stumps, or trash.

Can I recycle lids and caps? Will they be recycled?

Please ensure that you empty and rinse containers first.  You may leave lids and caps on the containers.  The metal lids on glass jars will pop off when the glass breaks during the collection or sorting process.  If you place caps and lids loose with your recycling, our processor has said that due to the small size these items may fall off the line and not make it through the recycling process.

Do I need to remove plastic windows from envelopes and things like staples?

Recycling is easy!

You do not need to worry about removing the plastic window on envelopes or tissue boxes, staples, paperclips, spiral bindings or even the plastic spout on beverage cartons.  These "contaminants" are separated out from the pulp when paper is mixed with water during the recycling process.

Please do remove plastic wrap or plastic bags from junk mail and phonebooks. Plastic bags jam conveyor belts at the recycling facility causing costly repairs and delays.

Does the City offer curbside collection of organics?

Diverting food scraps from the waste stream for composting is an important climate solution. It is an important way to meet the City's Climate Protection goals and an integral part of the Massachusetts Solid Waste Master Plan.  In October 2015, the City expanded free weekly curbside pickup of food scraps as part of a pilot program to 5,000 more households in the Monday collection route. Curbside compost is only available for buildings with less than 13 units that have a Monday trash/recycling pickup. The City is analyzing the possibility of expanding this program citywide.
Learn more!

How can I recycle plastic bags?

Plastic bags and other types of plastic film are accepted at our Recycling Center open Tues/Thurs 4pm-7:30pm and Sat 9-4pm.  We are located in the rear of the DPW yard at 147 Hampshire.

Plastic bags are not accepted in the curbside recycling program because they jam up the conveyor belts at the recycling facility causing costly delays and repairs.

Learn more about the City's Bring Your Own Bag Ordinance that went into effect in 2016.

Last Updated: 3/5/2017 | Provide feedback on this page

Got feedback?

Please provide your feedback below: