Commercial waste contracts are a ripoff. If your business rents dumpsters, there’s about a 95% chance you’re overpaying for your company’s waste management costs.

Trash and recycling are one of those things that most companies don’t think about. They sign a long term contract with Waste Management or Republic Services or one of a million local haulers that has built in price jumps and then they forget about it. Garbage trucks come, garbage trucks go, the bill goes up year after year, and your bottom line suffers.

If you’re interested in cutting costs, saving money on commercial waste management expenses is one of the easiest ways to add thousands back into your budget. If you follow these tips, you can reduce your waste costs by as much as 50%.

Negotiate Your Waste Costs

Negotiating your waste contracts is the best way to save money on your commercial trash bill. Haulers (especially the big players like WM, Republic, and Waste Connections) pad their contracts with huge margins. They know waste contracts aren’t sexy and don’t get looked at very often and they take advantage of that to overcharge businesses on their waste bills.

Negotiating a lower waste management contract also isn’t that hard. Because they’ve got big margins built in, they have a lot of room to go down. Usually, you can knock 10-20% off of your current pricing no problem.

Step one of negotiating a waste bill is to do your research. Call around to all the other providers in town—including local players in the dumpster and hauling business. Ask friends and colleagues in your industry what they’re paying. That way, when you call your waste management provider, you go in armed with knowledge.

A strong negotiating tactic is to threaten to terminate your waste management service. Quote the absolute lowest price you heard and say you’ve already gotten started setting up service. They might try to stop you cancelling your waste management service by threatening an early termination fee (ETF.) Just tell them another provider has offered to cover it or that it’ll pay off in the long run.

There are entire books about negotiating contracts, but here’s an easy lesson: be patient. Don’t take their first offer. Don’t listen to their excuses. Bide your time and keep saying “It would have to be lower” until they give you the price you want. Nay, the price you deserve.

When you’re negotiating a recycling or trash contract, keep an eye on the details. It doesn’t do you much good to get a 15% reduction on a 48 month waste contract that has built in 10% annual increases. Look at all the details—every line is negotiable!

If you’re willing to compromise on some of the service—smaller dumpsters, less frequent trash collections—you can get even steeper savings. Take an inventory of what your actual needs are before you start.

Of course, negotiating can be very time consuming. To do it right can take weeks if you don’t know the right people to talk to. Even then, you might end up leaving 20 or 30% on the table. That’s when you should call in the big guns.

BillFixers negotiates waste contracts on behalf of small and medium sized businesses. In addition to saving company’s tens of thousands of dollars on providers like Waste Management and Republic, they can also help with other waste services like Shredding and Medical Waste. And that’s not even to mention the 25% average savings on internet, phones, and hundreds of others services like shipping and software.

The advantage to hiring professional negotiators like BillFixers isn’t just that they save time and headache, but that they’ve negotiated thousands of contracts and know exactly which levers to pull to get the max total savings. In exchange for negotiating on your behalf, they split the savings with you. So, if they’re unsuccessful in lowering your bill, there’s no downside.

Read how BillFixers negotiated a 75% discount on a Waste Management bill.

Downsize your Dumpster Service

Businesses generally don’t spend a lot of time thinking about their their dumpsters. And at most companies, CFOs, Managers, and the Account Payable team aren’t the ones taking out the trash. That means they don’t notice that their dumpsters are only half full (or half empty) when their waste hauler comes.

If you don’t know already, find out when your waste management provider is sending their garbage trucks through and check how full the dumpsters are before they do. Ask your maintenance staff how full the dumpsters ever get.

Odds are, you signed up for your commercial waste service years ago. Maybe you have three dumpsters but only need two. Maybe you’re paying for a 40’ dumpster when you could save yourself money with a 20’ dumpster. Maybe you’re paying for two recycling dumpsters but only ever using one.

Changing the amount and size of dumpsters isn’t your only tool. If you switch the frequency of your hauler’s pickups, you can save serious money. If your dumpsters are only going half full, switching from twice a week waste service to once a week could mean thousands of dollars or even tens of thousands added back to your bottom line with no downside.

Watch your Waste Bill for Fees

Waste management bills aren’t set it and forget it. Keep a watchful eye on your bill to make sure that your recycling and trash provider isn’t hitting you with extra fees. Every provider is different, but the most common (and the most expensive) fee on a waste bill is usually an overflow or overage charge.

Waste companies will charge these for anything from trash placed beside a dumpster to an open lid. Make sure to talk to employees and staff to make sure your dumpster lids are closed completely with no garbage outside of the receptacle.

The good news is your account manager is a human who wants to keep your business. If it’s your first offense (or even if it’s not) call your provider and ask them to waive the fee. They almost certainly will if you ask right. Don’t want to make the call yourself? Get somebody else to do it for you. This applies to late fees, recycling issue fees, and just about any one-time fee assessed on your waste management bill.

Simple rule of thumb: is your waste bill higher than last month? Find out why and fix it.

Share Waste Costs with Other Businesses

No business is an island and you always save money buying in bulk. Collaborating with other businesses is one of the best ways to grow your own. Reach out to other businesses near your locations and work together to cut your commercial waste costs.

If you’ve both got two 20’ dumpsters, consolidate to one 40’ dumpster. If you’ve both got recycling dumpsters that never end up full, drop one and split the cost of the one that remains.

Even if your location absolutely needs its own waste services and they can’t be shared with another business, that doesn’t mean you need to go it alone. The smaller your contract, the less you can save money on your commercial waste costs. Band together with a few other businesses, though, and you get some bargaining power. Then, when you’re renegotiating the contract, renegotiate for two locations instead of one. Better yet, renegotiate for twenty—a hundred!

Reduce Waste & Recycle

This goes hand in hand with downsizing your dumpsters. The less waste you make, the less you have to pay to have hauled away. The EPA has a fantastic guide for why and how to reduce waste at your commercial building.

Recycling isn’t just good for the environment—it’s much cheaper. Prices will vary by company and location, but some types of recycling will even add credits back onto your bill. And, depending on location, you might even save money on taxes. In Minneapolis, for example, recycling waste instead of landfilling it will save you 31.5%.
Plus, employees are more engaged and have higher opinions of senior management when their company goes green, according to a study by Kenexa Research Institute.

Switch Commercial Waste Providers

If all else fails (or even if it doesn’t), go to the competition! You’re going to be calling all the other commercial waste providers anyway while you’re negotiating your waste contract—odds are one of them does have a better deal!

Surprisingly, local providers can often have significantly cheaper rates than the big players like Waste Management and Republic Services. Plus, a Mom & Pop shop might be more flexible to help a local business. In the end, the way to find the best deal is research, research, research. Switching can be difficult and stressful, but can mean tens of thousands in savings if you have multiple locations.

Put It All Together

So, you wanted to know how to save money on commercial waste management costs. Now you do. Shop around, negotiate, downsize, share, reduce, and recycle. Any single one of these could save 10% on your commercial dumpster & hauling costs. Taken together, you can cut your waste costs by 50% or more.

Still, dealing with commercial waste can be as time consuming as it is unsexy. Hiring an expert to save your company money on waste costs only takes about 5 minutes, but can save you thousands per location. After all, you don’t have time to waste.

Editorial Policy: The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and is not legal, tax, or debt advice. You should consult your own attorney or seek specific advice from a legal, tax, or debt professional regarding any such issues. Please understand that BillFixers™ policies change over time. Posts reflect BillFixers™ policy at the time of writing. While maintained for your information, archived posts may not reflect current  BillFixers™ policy.

Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer or other company, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. All information, including rates and fees, are accurate as of the date of publication and are updated as provided by our partners. Some of the offers on this page may not be available through our website.

Results will vary. Savings are not guaranteed, not all bills are eligible, and some consumers may not experience any savings.

Ben Kurland is one of the Co-Founders of BillFixers.