U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Orange Trash Truck

Trash Collection

Public Works

Cambridge residents have reduced their trash by 30% since 2008! Together we can go further. Nearly half of what is in our trash is compost or recycling. After you’ve reused, recycled, or composted what you can, what’s left can go into the trash.

The Department of Public Works (DPW) provides free trash carts to all buildings where we collect trash.

  • Place trash in city-issued carts.
  • On the occasion that you have excess trash, extra trash must be in heavy-duty bags (at least 3mils thick). No thin kitchen trash bags. Place bags next to trash cart on the morning of collection only.
    • Should not contain food items.
    • Bags must weigh less than 50 lbs
  • One large item a week.
  • Place carts at the curb after 6PM the night before collection or by 7AM on collection day.
  • After collection, remove carts from sidewalk by 6PM.

To find out if something can be kept out of the trash use the Get Rid of It Right tool below.

Public Works has two compliance officers who check the collection routes daily to ensure compliance with the Refuse and Litter Ordinance. 

To go back to the main waste collections webpage, click here

My cart is missing or broken.

If your cart is missing, please check up and down your street first. Please request what carts you would like picked up or delivered at CambridgeMA.Gov/RecycleSupplies and we will be in touch. Be sure to write your address on the side of each of your carts.  

My Compost/Recycling/Trash/Yard Waste was not picked up on my regular collection day

All waste must be set out by 7AM on your collection day, or after 6PM the night before. If you think any waste collection was missed, please report it at CambridgeMA.Gov/311 (preferred) or leave a voicemail at 617-349-4800. Leave materials at the curb and pickup will be done by the end of the next collection day.

What size cart(s) do I have? What are the cart sizes?

We offer trash cart in three sizes (35-gallon, 45-gallon, and 65-gallon) based on the number of households in a building.

You can find the size of a trash cart by looking at the first two numbers in the serial code on the back of the cart (e.g., “4522...” is a 45-gal cart)

See this PDF for the dimensions of the carts. 

I need more space for trash. How did the City decide how many carts to provide?

Based on data from two city audits of curbside trash volume per household, this will provide a generous amount of space for regular weekly trash. The default trash cart delivery is approximately 45-gallons per household. The average household produces 27 gallons of trash each week. For households that compost, it’s closer to 22 gallons per week

To make more space in your trash cart, we offer:

More or larger recycle carts at CambridgeMA.Gov/RecycleSupplies. (It can help to a pair each room’s trash bin with a recycling container.)

Compost carts and kitchen compost bins at CambridgeMA.Gov/RecycleSupplies . We accept all food scraps, and food soiled napkins and paper towels. 

Home pick-up for clothing and textile recycling. Even clothes and shoes in poor condition are not trash.

Our Get Rid of It Right Tool to look up what to do with an item. It’s also on our Zero Waste Cambridge app (iOS|Android). Residents use it more than 500 times a day!

On the rare occasions when you need more space than your trash cart, you can use a heavy-duty trash bag. Bags must be heavy duty at least 3 mils thick (e.g., contractor bags). Bags cannot exceed 50 gallons or 50 pounds. No thin grocery or kitchen bags allowed. Trash bags may only be placed at the curb by 7 a.m. on the day of collection, not the night before. Food items should not go in the plastic bags as it attracts rodents. Another idea is that you could talk to a neighbor about sharing extra space in each other’s carts on the occasions when one of you may need little more space.

That said we understand that each household is different. If you feel that there are extenuating circumstances and you will regularly need more space than the default provides, enter a brief reasoning (3 sentences or less) to in the comment section of CambridgeMA.Gov/RecycleSupplies

Why does Cambridge use standard city-issued trash carts?

The goal of the Standard Trash Cart program is to improve: 

  • Rodent control and public health. The new carts will reduce easy access to food for rodents.

  • Worker Safety. The trucks can mechanically lift and empty the new carts. This will reduce lifting impacts on DPW staff.

  • Sidewalk accessibility. Lids are attached to the cart and will not fall on the sidewalk. Larger buildings will need fewer carts because their carts will be bigger (65 gallons instead of 50 gallons). This leads to fewer sidewalk obstructions.

How do city-issued trash carts help prevent and control rodents?

 To reduce rodents, we need to remove easy access to food in our trash. A rat can survive on one ounce of food a day.

The city-issued carts reduce easy access to food for rodents by

  • Being made of thicker plastic than barrels bought at hardware stores.
  • Removing old trash barrels with holes. About 45% of residential trash bins had holes due to rodents. If your trash cart gets holes request a replacement at CambridgeMA.Gov/RecycleSupplies

The free Curbside Compost program is one of the best ways to combat rodents. Compost carts were made to be rodent resistant with

  • Thick plastic and
  • Locks or latches to secure food waste.

For more on rodent prevention and control visit CambridgeMA.Gov/Rodents.

How do I apply for a disability-related exemption to the 6PM receptacle removal requirement?

Please contact:

Commission for Persons with Disabilities 
51 Inman St., Second Floor
Kate Thurman
617-349-4692 (voice)
617-492-0235 (TTY)

Page was last modified on 6/26/2024 4:22 PM
Contact Us

How can we help?

Please provide as much detail below as possible so City staff can respond to your inquiry:

As a governmental entity, the Massachusetts Public Records Law applies to records made or received by the City. Any information received through use of this site is subject to the same provisions as information provided on paper.

Read our complete privacy statement

Service Requests

Enter a service request via SeeClickFix for things like missed trash pickups, potholes, etc.