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Earth Month In Action: Clear Alley Program Impacts Seattle’s Chinatown International District

The Chinatown International District (CID) is a neighborhood of beautiful restaurants, parks, streets, stores and alleys. The community lives and works here bring vibrant culture and traditions to daily life. The historic buildings are celebrated and tell amazing stories of how Seattle grew up.

One of the unusual aspects of the CID are the alleys. They thread each block together and provide vital services to the neighborhood. Residents walk through the alleys daily for shopping, pleasure, and to get to work; the alleys host retail stores; they are the entry point to many apartments and businesses; they are historic and architecturally engaging; and, very importantly, goods and services are delivered through the alleys to not overcrowded the streets.

However, dumpsters in alleys attract illegal dumping and illegal activity. By removing the dumpsters, the alleys are cleaner and safer. Seattle Public Utilities’ Clear Alley Program in the CID is a solid waste service introduced in 2014 to remove dumpsters from the alleys and replace them with a special bag set out program. When businesses use the Clean Alley Program bags, the alleys are cleaned up three times per day of all garbage. The Program also reduces litter and debris scattering from dumpsters and creates a more inviting space.

The Clear Alley Program is good for the environment as well. Customers using bags are encouraged to divert as much of their food waste and recycle from the garbage, so that they reduce their garbage costs. Clear Alley Program customers get free cardboard collection as well as low cost food waste and recycle services.

You can see the impact of the Clear Alley Program by taking a walk down the Nihomachi alley to visit Chiyo’s Garden adjacent to the Jackson Building, owned by one of the oldest families in the neighborhood, the Murakami family. There you will find artwork and a garden that are visited regularly by tourists and the community and help to celebrate the diversity, history, and the beauty of the Chinatown International District.  

Learn more about how SPU is making everyday investments in our planet.