Why Is Trash Service So Expensive? (10 Reasons)


Two garbage men working together on emptying dustbins for trash removal with truck loading waste and trash bin.


Along with our water, electricity, and gas bills, it seems like our trash bills are always on the rise.

When the costs of utilities increase, it makes many renters and homeowners confused as to why these services cost as much as they do.

Statista values the global waste management market at 1.61 trillion U.S. dollars as of 2020 and claims that it is projected to reach 2.5 trillion dollars between 2021 to 2030.

Whether you live in a populated city or a rural area, trash service can cost more than you like and contribute to the cost of living in that particular area.

Sometimes it can be difficult to figure out how utility costs are calculated.

However, many factors go into determining your trash collection prices, from your location to disposal fees to fuel charges and more.


Why Is Trash Service So Expensive? (10 Reasons)


1. Households Are Producing More Waste

Female hand putting trash in recycle bin


Our population has been consistently growing and contributing to more global waste production.

Since the pandemic, more people are working from home, therefore creating more waste.

According to the Wall Street Journal, “The weight of residential waste has increased 15% to 25% since the beginning of widespread lockdown orders in the U.S.”

As more people stay at home, their trash is being deposited in higher concentrations at their residences as opposed to being more widely distributed in commercial trash bins.

Because of the increase in residential waste, disposal costs are rising, increasing the cost of overall trash service for residents.

Since more trash is created at home now, waste companies like Waste Management, which serves 18.3 million residents across the United States and Canada, say their commercial and industrial revenue has dropped tremendously.

To make up for lost revenue, trash service companies are having to raise the cost of residential fees.

Whereas individuals may not have noticed their waste output while at work or outside of their homes, seeing their daily waste concentrated in one area and facing the consequence in the form of rising payments is making many people think twice about their trash output.

The rising cost is understandable, though, as trash services are now having to make more trips to the landfill, driving up transportation, fuel, and disposal fees.

In general, waste production has continually risen in the United States since the 1960s, with the average American throwing away around five pounds of solid waste per day.

The United States produces more waste than any other country in the world, making it difficult for waste collection services to keep up.

In turn, they must charge more for their services.


2. China Ban On Waste Imports

Sorted plastic waste ready for shipping and recycling


In 2018, China banned the import of 24 types of solid waste, which, in turn, lowered the global prices for recycled material.

In the past, waste-collection companies were able to recoup much of their recycling costs by selling recycled materials like paper, plastic, cardboard, and metal.

Since the waste import ban, trash collection companies have not been able to make as much money back from this service, forcing them to charge more for their services.

To make up for this lost revenue, companies like Waste Management have been able to renegotiate some of their municipal contracts and charge higher fees.

Some waste companies have started charging separate recycling fees since the ban.

Also, there is little incentive for waste companies to provide recycling services when there is no kickback for them.

Before the ban, China was the leading importer of plastic waste, taking in 56% of the world’s plastic waste, with the United States being in the top four contributors.

Before the ban, the U.S. exported 4,000 shipping containers per day to China at a relatively low cost.

Today, the U.S. exports waste to other Asian countries like Vietnam, Malaysia, and Thailand, but those countries combined are still unable to handle the amount of trash that the U.S. produces as well as China did.

Also, because of the ban, over 60 curbside pickup services have been canceled along with several drop-off site closures.

This leads to even more waste having to be picked up by waste companies still in service and them having to charge higher fees for operating drop-off sites, contributing to increasing residential trash bills.


3. Rising Transfer Costs

Urban recycling waste and garbage services


Transfer stations are drop-off points where waste companies can deposit their trash loads.

It is then compacted and loaded into a larger vehicle that will deliver it to the landfill.

Transfer stations act as temporary storage solutions—or as the middleman—between the trash in your bin and its final resting place.

Their necessity, however, allows them to charge higher fees for their services.

In 1991, the federal government laid out rigorous requirements for future landfills.

Because these requirements are costly, many municipals and urban centers opt to transfer their trash elsewhere instead of upgrading their current overflowing landfills or constructing new ones.

As urban centers grow, the abundance of waste produced creates a major problem.

However, transfer stations help eliminate these stressors and offer the option of transporting a city’s trash to larger rural landfills.

The biggest reason waste companies choose to use transfer stations is to keep their costs down, as it’s cheaper to drop off their trash loads at a transfer station than it is to drive to the landfill themselves.

However, as the economy changes and inflation occurs, the cost of transfer fees rise.

In turn, residents may see rising trash service bills.


4. Frequent Collection Costs

recycling waste and garbage services


Since more people are working from home and creating more residential trash, waste-collecting companies are having to make more frequent pickups.

Most municipal waste services pick up trash and recycling on a weekly schedule.

However, because of the overabundance of residential trash, some places now have to increase their trash pickup to two or more days a week to prevent overflow.

In areas where customers can shop for their waste service, some companies offer the option of more frequent pickups, such as 2-3 days per week.

If your company works with a waste collection service for its commercial pickup, you can often choose pick-up frequency.

Some companies find they don’t need pickup as often as they thought and can lower the frequency to once a week, whereas other companies may find they need more frequent pickup and have to up their frequency to two days a week.

Whether you get your trash picked up one day a week or multiple days will greatly affect the cost of your trash service.

Frequent pickups require more labor costs, disposal fees, transfer fees, and fuel costs—all things that factor into your trash service bills.


5. Landfill Fees

Work of special equipment at the pumping range. Bulldozers are clearing up the garbage. Seagulls over the landfill.


Even though some waste removal companies offer commercial trash fee discounts, the high cost of your landfill fee will still factor into your overall bill.

Landfills charge a “tipping fee” which is automatically included in your trash fee.

The tipping fee for commercial landfills varies greatly—between $25-$150 per ton.

According to Statista, “The average cost to landfill municipal solid waste (MSW) in the United States was 53.72 U.S. dollars per ton in 2020.”

The number of landfills across the United States has lowered significantly in the past decades, as many smaller landfills have reached maximum capacity and don’t have the room or money to expand properly in order to meet government regulations.

There were over 6,000 landfills in the country in 1990 and now that number stands at less than 1,300.

This means waste from transfer stations or directly from waste collection services must travel further to reach its final destination, leading to more labor hours and fuel costs.


6. Lack Of State Or Federal Regulations

Garbage man at work on the truck


Although U.S. landfills are regulated by their specific states’ environmental agencies under the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), most private waste collection companies are not regulated by any state or federal regulations, depending on where you live.

This means they can set the cost at what they deem appropriate.

According to Democrat and Chronicle, “Individual prices can vary based on collection density, proximity of pickup locations to trash drop-off facilities, and negotiation processes between haulers and municipalities.”

Since, “private companies set prices based on costs of disposal, transportation, wages, fuel and insurance costs,”—all factors that fluctuate—customers may also see their trash bill fluctuate in response.

Private companies can set their own rates unless they have a contract with a municipal area that falls under union rules or laws requiring certain labor wages.

Although the lack of state or federal regulations may raise waste collection services, it also gives customers the freedom to research and shop for the best option for their waste needs, potentially saving them a lot of money.

For instance, if you know you don’t produce a lot of waste, you can search for a cheaper option that doesn’t pick up as frequently and also use a smaller container.


7. Transportation Maintenance/Fuel Charges

Garbage Day Pickup


Garbage trucks are not cheap and cost a lot to maintain.

The base cost of a garbage truck is around $200,000 per truck.

Some private trash collection companies do not have a large supply of trucks at their disposal since they require such a large up-front investment.

Plus, garbage trucks are not easy to maintain and require frequent maintenance and repair.

It typically costs roughly $13,000 a month to operate a garbage truck, or $650 a day.

Customers in closer proximity to other homes or who live in more urban areas may experience lower costs than those in rural areas, where garbage trucks require more fuel and endure more wear and tear to drive between commercial businesses or residences.

The more pickups in a day a truck can do, the less they’ll need to charge per pickup, benefiting those who live in more populated areas.

Sometimes waste collection services will re-route themselves to include more customers on their daily routes to help keep their prices low, but when this is impossible, those spread-out customers may experience higher trash charges.

Vehicle charges can be based on the amount of trash taken up in container yards or by the number of lifts (or customer pickups).

Vehicle charges based on container yards are “calculated by taking the total daily cost and dividing it by the number of container yards collected on the route that day.”

Fuel charges are generally decided on by the national diesel prices and will probably be tacked onto your trash bill, fluctuating as the national rates change.


8. Disposal Costs

Two garbagemen working together on emptying dustbins for trash


Disposal costs depend on where in the country the customer is located but are typically between $20-$100 per ton.

Things like transportation, labor, and container size are all factored in when determining the disposal costs.

According to Waste 360, “Assuming a disposal cost of $40 per ton, it will cost $1.90 for each container yard that a hauler picks up.

For a once-a-week customer with a 4-yard container, that is $33 per month in disposal costs.”

This is using an average of 95 pounds of waste per container yard.

Disposal rates will differ based on the customer and how much waste they produce.

For instance, if the customer is a restaurant, bar, or company that disposes of heavy waste, their disposal fee may be significantly higher, as their waste weight will be much higher than the average.

Those with oversized trash containers will probably get charged a higher fee as well.


9. Additional Services Cost More Money

hand holding garbage black bag putting in to trash


To keep their costs reasonable, some popular waste collection companies have eliminated previously complementary services, such as yard waste pickup and bulk pickup.

Instead, these companies are now charging additional fees for these services.

Again, the type of waste services included in your regular pickup will depend on where you live and what company services your area.

Companies are now tacking on these additional costs in order to make up for lost revenue, but also to keep their prices reasonable for those who don’t need to utilize these extra services often.

Companies can also charge more for special cases.

Examples of these cases include needing waste to be picked up at a specific date and time, requiring a signature from the waste-collection company upon pickup, or even hard-to-maneuver roads, alleys, or special routes.


10. Proximity To A Landfill

Aerial view of city dump or landfill


Unfortunately, with the shutting down of thousands of landfills across the country, it’s harder and harder for residents to live near a landfill

Though many people don’t want to live too close to a landfill, residents and companies will see greater trash bills the further away they are from one.

Plus, fewer people live closer to landfills as more shut down, driving up transportation, fuel, and labor costs.

A recent study found that “for some companies, location factors into a customer’s periodic price, based on collection density and proximity to a landfill or transfer station.”

Obviously, the closer your business or home is to a landfill, the less labor and fuel your waste collection service will have to use, allowing them to charge you less for the same service that someone 60 miles away from you may be charged.

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