Waste Collection is Big Business
The waste management industry in the United States has combined annual revenues of over $75 billion and is continually growing with increased demand driven by population growth as well as greater consumer consumption. Waste disposal first became a major industry soon after World War II with a booming U.S. economy and the proliferation of suburbs. The introduction of stricter federal antipollution laws in the 1960s such as the Solid Waste Disposal Act of 1965 made it so that waste materials required professional disposal services, and individuals no longer had the option of burning trash in the incinerator. Sweeping environmental laws passed in the 1960s and 1970s also mandated the safe disposal of industrial waste materials which introduced another new area of waste management. As current landfills are being stretched to their limit, many trash collection services are also offering trash recycling in addition to regular collection which is another area of rapid expansion in the industry.
Public vs. Private Trash Collection
Densely populated urban areas require constant trash collection to keep streets and neighborhoods free from unwanted waste. Some larger well funded municipalities opt to perform their own trash and recycling collection using a fleet of city-owned trash trucks operated by city employees. This scenario allows few opportunities for an independent garbage truck operator. Smaller towns and unincorporated areas, however, typically don’t have the funds or resources to purchase trash trucks and hire full-time staff to operate the vehicles. These types of geographic areas offer strategic opportunities for independent garbage truck operators.
Waste Collection Contracts
Although some larger cities and municipalities purchase their own refuse truck fleets to collect their local trash and recycling, many also hire the trash services of large regional or national waste disposal companies with long-term service contracts. Independent garbage truck operators will have a difficult time competing against the large corporations because of their ability to undercut prices due to their economies of scale. In some cases, the large corporations will enter into exclusive franchise agreements with the municipalities they serve which do not allow for other vendors from collecting trash within specified geographic areas. These exclusive franchise agreements, however, will sometimes leave certain areas of refuse collection open for bidding. This may include commercial collection services or collection for smaller municipal groups, such as school districts. These other venues provide excellent open market bidding opportunities for independent trash collection operators.
With garbage landfill space quickly dwindling and the threat of long-term pollution concerns, recycling has become a vital service of which individuals, companies and municipalities are taking notice. While some cities may own a fleet of garbage trucks, not all have the funds or resources available for the separate collection of recyclable materials. This is especially true in rural and less densely populated areas where recycling services have been neglected. Recycled materials such as metal, cardboard, plastic and paper provide independent trash operators with a tremendous opportunity to earn income from both the fees to collect the material as well as the sale of the recycled material on the open market. The sale of the recyclables collected can be significant while also helping the environment by diverting trash away from landfills.
Business Collection and Specialty Waste Disposal
Commercial or corporate trash collection services provide a great source of revenue for independent garbage truck operators, particularly in areas where municipal services aren’t available or the city services cap the amount of waste collected at the business location. Another area of commercial collection involves specialty waste transfer and disposal. Trash classified as toxic, including waste oil products or garbage containing mercury, must be collected and disposed of at special processing facilities. Municipal services failing to provide dedicated collection trucks to dispose of these waste materials offer another opportunity for independent garbage truck operators.
How to Get Started
The biggest barrier to entry for an independent garbage hauler is the cost of the equipment required to operate the business and in particular the high cost of purchasing a garbage truck. New garbage trucks can cost well over six figures which puts them out of reach for many who would like to enter this potentially lucrative industry. Used garbage trucks, however, can cost a fraction of new trucks and if purchased correctly, can be a great value proposition because well maintained pre-owned refuse trucks can perform just as well as brand new ones. Once you have procured a truck, you may also need waste receptacles such as residential carts or commercial dumpsters depending on the type of collection route you decide to pursue. These can be purchased through various outlets and are not too cost prohibitive to starting your own refuse collection business.