New Regulations for Donation Drop-Off Boxes Adopted

drop-off donation box

We’ve discarded the old way for regulating donation drop boxes by creating new zoning rules.

This action was taken because the boxes can turn into a dumping ground for old furniture, mattresses and other junk. Or in some instances, the boxes have been placed in locations that block required parking spaces or along roads or sidewalks.

The Board of Supervisors adopted the new zoning laws on Tuesday.

Previously, these drop-off boxes weren’t explicitly covered under current zoning rules. Instead, the county has applied its rules for accessory structures like garden sheds or garages. The new law spells out the allowed size, location and number for these boxes often found in shopping center parking lots.


The New Rules

drop-off donation boxThe ordinance says that the boxes:

  • May not be larger than seven feet tall, six feet wide or six feet long.
  • Are limited to two boxes per property in an area not to exceed a total of 120 square feet.
  • May only be put on qualified properties with written permission from the property owner, and this permission must be made available to the county for review upon request.
  • Must get regular collection or within 48 hours following a property owner’s request.
  • Must not have junk or trash left outside the boxes for more than 24 hours, and it must be removed by the box operator or property owners.
  • Must list the following information on the outside of the box: name and telephone number of the owner/operator, who’s responsible for removing any junk that’s left, the kinds of items sought for donations and a statement prohibiting liquids and dumping.
  • May only be placed on certain commercial properties, like shopping centers, that are 40,000 square feet or larger; in any commercial area of a P district when shown on an approved development plan; and in any residential district on lots with a non-residential principal use, like a church, or in conjunction with approval for another use by a special permit, special exception or proffered rezoning and only when shown on an approved development plan.


To come up with the proposal, we consulted with Planet Aid, a nonprofit that uses donation boxes to collects used clothes, and the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association.

For more information about the proposal, contact the Department of Planning and Zoning at 703-324-1314, TTY 711.

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