How to Make Money Picking Up Trash

This post may contain affiliate links. Feel free to view my disclosure here.

picking up trash

As you know that there are tons of side hustles out there. From selling things on eBay to selling ebooks, the opportunities are endless. Did you know that you could make money by picking up trash? I’m not lying. Brian Winch makes a living doing it. I had the chance to interview him and ask some questions. Please keep reading to find out how he does it.

How to Make Money Picking Up Trash

How did you get started?

Providing a service to businesses while working outdoors appealed to me. I tested the market by contacting my prospects – property management companies – to gauge any interest in my service. I developed an elevator pitch to quickly introduce myself and explain to my prospects how they could benefit from using my service.

I would forward more details to prospects wanting to learn more. I wasn’t trying to sell from my initial contact but to start a conversation that would hopefully lead to a sale. I started on a shoestring budget. I used the money I made from my first client to grow my business. I started with three properties I serviced as a side hustle while I continued working my full-time job.

What made you choose “picking up trash” as a side hustle?

My dad was a janitor for the public school system who always had a side gig to supplement his income. He occasionally took me to assist him when I was a kid. We cut grass, shoveled snow, and in one case, cleaned up litter outside a nearby shopping plaza. It was almost as easy to do as going for a walk! We would show up early in the morning before the shops opened, walk the parking lot, sidewalks, and surrounding landscape, and sweep up any litter material we found into our litter collection tools.

When we were finished, we dumped the contents from our tools into the waste bins on-site and went home to get ready to go to work (him) or school (me). I only had a little money, skills, or education to start a business as a side hustle. I realized the best opportunity for me to start was some cleaning service. I recalled my experience working alongside my dad and chose “picking up trash.” Unfortunately, he unexpectedly passed away two months before I started my hustle, so I didn’t have his experience to call upon.

How long have you been in business?

I’ve been in business for over 40 years. My business has survived a few recessions and now a pandemic. My service has been deemed an essential service during the pandemic. With people discarding their used PPE (masks, gloves, wipes) and typical litter (empty drink cups, fast food or candy wrappers, cigarette butts), my service has never been as vital to maintaining commercial properties.

Learn more about Clean Lots here.

What did you do before this venture?

I was working a full-time job at a sporting goods store. I didn’t mind the work but couldn’t see many opportunities for career advancement. I didn’t enjoy the 9-5 routine and working within the same four walls daily.

What does it take to succeed in the “picking up trash” business?

It would help if you were persistent and patient. You need to reach out to your prospects and explain the benefits they receive by doing business with you. You may not get a client in your first communication. You need to follow up. You need to enjoy working outdoors and get satisfaction from providing the service you provide – keeping your community litter-free. Provide exceptional customer service. Anyone can clean; only some people take the time to communicate with their clients.

Developing business relationships with your clients leads to long-lasting contracts and referral business. It doesn’t take much to do so. When you’re at a site cleaning and notice things like fresh graffiti, burned-out lighting, property damage, illegal dumping, or vandalism, inform your clients first thing in the morning. They appreciate this reporting and love that you act as an extra set of eyes for them.

Did you face any struggles when you were starting?

Yes. I had never been in business before. I had to learn how to set up a legal business structure, name my business, open a business bank account, set up an accounting system, collect taxes, market my business, create various business forms, etc. I found plenty of “how-to” information back in the day from my bank, government, and bookstores.

It’s far easier now with the internet than when I started. I experimented with various tools to clean up litter. I found one I continue to use today, as it is still the best available. It allows me to quickly and easily clean up the most litter in the least amount of time.

What are some crazy things that you’ve found when working?

Sometimes I find wallets, purses, phones, or items of clothing. I make my best effort to return these items to their owners. A few times each month, I find paper bill money. A 5, 10, or 20-dollar bill is always welcome. People must be more careful with their money and stuff a bill or 2 in their pocket with their keys. When they pull their keys from their pocket, their money comes unbeknownst to them. I once found a crumpled dollar bill, and when I unfolded it discovered a $100 bill inside! Imagine my surprise. The most money I ever found was $600 rolled up in a tight roll next to a waste bin.

How many days of the week do you work?

I work five days a week (M-F). Most of my buildings are serviced M-F, but some are only 3 (M, W, F). I have an army of people who also work throughout the week and weekend.

If there’s bad weather, what do you do?

You dress according to the weather and do the best you can. This service is not seasonal, as people litter year-round regardless of the season or conditions outside.

If someone is interested, how would you suggest they get started?

Check out the brief video to see how this work is performed. If it interests you, get started by ordering the book, Cleanlots – America’s Simplest Business. I offer free support as my way of giving back to a business that has provided very well to me.

Anything else that you want to share?

If you work your business, then your business will work for you. You decide how big or small you wish your side hustle business to be. Some are content with a side gig that generates an extra $1000 – $5000/month. Others, such as myself, go full-time and gross six figures yearly. We do $650,000 – $700,000/year.

Sign up for Clean Lots today!

Brian Winch is the author and creator of Cleanlots, America’s Simplest Business. Brian has been involved in all aspects of the parking lot litter cleaning business since 1981. He can show you how to start and operate a simple service business based from home and make money from a green business that’s almost as easy to do as going for a walk!

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Jason Butler is the owner of My Money Chronicles, a website where he discusses personal finance, side hustles, travel, and more. Jason is from Atlanta, Georgia. He graduated from Savannah State University with his BA in Marketing. Jason has been featured in Forbes, Discover, and Investopedia.