Author(s): Kristin Bigda. Published on September 1, 2019.

In Compliance | NFPA 101

NFPA 1, NFPA 101, and valet trash collection services 


Sometimes an unlikely subject generates a lot of stakeholder response during the code development process. For the revision cycles of the 2021 NFPA 1, Fire Code, and NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®, that topic has been a luxury trash service known as valet trash collection.

Among the questions the issue has raised is whether combustible materials—trash—should be allowed in egress corridors, which in most cases would constitute a code violation.

I was recently made aware of this relatively new building service from a Fire Code Technical Committee member, who educated me on the issue because he felt it would be brought to the committee’s attention in the near future. What I didn’t realize at the time was the level of interest the issue would bring from code-process veterans and newcomers alike.

A proposed definition in NFPA 1 describes valet trash as “a service that collects occupant-generated trash or recyclable materials from dwelling units, where the trash is left outside of dwelling units for scheduled pickup.” The service is both convenient and practical; in a high-rise building, for example, residents might normally have to travel outside or to other areas in the building to dispose of their trash. A valet trash service can also be useful for residents who may not have the physical ability to carry out heavy bags of waste to a designated area in the building, or outside the building. As part of the service, the vendor usually provides customers with their own receptacles and offers scheduled pickup times for trash collection.

There are a few reasons why the service has been brought to the attention of codes such as NFPA 1 and NFPA 101. It has been utilized by communities across the country for some time, but its growing popularity has also resulted in inconsistencies around how related regulations are being enforced, and how they should be enforced to ensure building and occupant safety during a fire. At the first draft meeting of NFPA 1 last fall, language was proposed to address a variety of issues, including permitting for the service, the location of combustible trash in exit access corridors, container specifications, and required protection of areas where the containers are located. The language was accepted by the technical committee during the meeting but failed to meet the required two-thirds vote on the formal ballot to secure its inclusion in the first draft. As a result, it was included in the First Draft Report as a committee input that allows the public viewing and comment.

Similar language addressing valet trash collection services was also proposed for both new and existing apartments in NFPA 101 as part of its 2021 first draft, but with the requirements focused mostly on the container specifications and its location. Most recently, at its second draft meeting in July, NFPA 101 further revised its provisions, addressing the numerous public comments received on the topic from organizations and stakeholders across the industry. Newly revised—but not yet balloted—code language addresses the use of alternate materials for containers in sprinklered buildings or buildings with noncombustible exteriors when the dwelling units are served by egress balconies. The language also modifies the specifications for container construction and size; the requirement for tight-fitting lids was removed, for example, due to the potential entrapment for children and animals. The addition of time limitations for trash and recycling materials was added to ensure that the greatest risk of the combustible materials in the containers is addressed and minimized. NFPA 1 will hold its second draft meeting in September, and it is expected that similar conversations on these issues will occur there as well.

Concerns remain as the technical committees continue their work on this topic. Should the codes address a service that, as some believe, goes against a fundamental principle that means of egress shall be continuously maintained free of all obstructions or impediments to full, instant use in the case of fire or other emergency? Should the codes prohibit it? Locating combustible materials in an egress corridor is a common code violation. Enforcers of the code have expressed concern with setting an unfair precedent by specifically allowing this practice and potentially opening the door to buildings permitting other combustible materials within a means of egress with or without regulation. Others have expressed concern that locating trash in the egress corridors could interfere with firefighting efforts. Supporters of the language believe that the enforcement community needs guidance to ensure buildings with these services already in place are not creating potential fire and life safety hazards. If regulated, the industry says it wants the service to not only be successful, but safe and compliant as well.

Other questions will also need to be addressed as part of the NFPA 1 and NFPA 101 code development process. Is there benefit to the inspection/enforcement community in having details on how to regulate valet trash services? Does providing strict specifications for the trash collection containers outweigh the concerns and/or risk if they are located in an occupant’s means of egress? As we approach the final steps in this revision process, I think the discussion of this service, and others like it, is just beginning. To follow those discussions and participate in the code development process, visit and

Kristin Bigda, P.E., is principal fire protection engineer at NFPA. NFPA members and AHJs can use the Technical Questions tab to post queries on NFPA 101 at