Do you want to learn how to start a litter cleanup business? Here’s how you can start a parking lot litter cleanup business and earn $30 to $50 per hour.
Brian Winch makes a living (it’s a $650,000+ per year business for him) by picking up trash.
Brian has been featured here on Making Sense of Cents before in the article he wrote – Get Paid $30 – $50 Per Hour To Pick Up Trash.
I recently asked him to take part in an interview to answer some of the common questions that you’ve had about starting a litter removal business.
Are you wondering questions such as:
- How much can a person earn with a parking lot litter cleanup business?
- What are the pros and cons of having a litter cleanup business?
- Why would businesses pay for a litter cleanup service?
- How much does it cost to start a litter cleanup business?
- How do you find customers for your parking lot cleanup business?
If so, please continue reading the interview below to see the answers to the questions above as well as answers to other common questions.
How to start a litter clean up service.
1. Please give us a little background on yourself and how you got started. How much have you earned from your litter pick up service?
My name is Brian Winch. I’ve been cleaning up litter outside commercial properties since 1981. It’s not a glamorous business but it sure is profitable. It’s also almost as easy to do as going for a walk!
I was 21 years old in 1981 and working a full-time job as a shipper/receiver at a large sporting goods company. I didn’t mind the job, but couldn’t see a future for myself. I barely graduated high school, didn’t go to college or have any special skills. The likelihood that I had any opportunities for career advancement were limited. I recognized this and began thinking about starting a simple business based from home. But what? I didn’t have much savings. I certainly didn’t have any business education or skills. I began evaluating my personal strengths and what I would and wouldn’t like to do.
I grew up in a blue-collar working class family. My dad was a refugee from Poland after WWII. He worked many jobs that most other people chose not to do. He was a farm-hand, worked on the railroad, meat slaughterhouse, in a hospital as an orderly (male nursing assistant), then finally was certified as a janitor for the public school system. He could speak English well enough but needed assistance reading and writing it. I remember my mom helping him with his written assignments to get his boiler papers so he could operate the heating systems. My mom was a nurses-aid when she worked. She stayed at home to raise my 2 brothers and I when we were growing up. Both my parents took on extra work on the side. Mom babysat. Dad cut grass in the summer and shoveled snow in the winter.
My parents were great role models to me. I grew up with entrepreneurial leanings from an early age. While most kids back in the day had a lemonade stand I chose to offer something different. I was 5 or 6 when I set up a card table in front of the house, gathered some of my brother’s toys and began selling them to other kids in our neighborhood.
I didn’t sell many until my mom found out and shut me down. My brothers weren’t too happy with me. I can’t recall if I had to share my sales with them!
2. How are you able to make $650,000 a year? That must be a lot of parking lots!
I scaled my side hustle from part-time to full-time. I was content to operate a simple one-man operation where I was grossing over $100,000 a year.
My client’s began asking me to service more of their properties. There is only so much of Brian to go around, so I decided to grow by recruiting family, friends and ex co-workers to assist in the cleaning of properties. This has worked exceptionally well for us over the years as it’s a win/win proposition. My cleaning crew make good and easy money. We get a motivated and responsible workforce. I’ve had some of the same people for 20 years!
We now service between 150-160 properties grossing as much as $700,000 per year.
Some properties are serviced 3 days per week, most 5 days and a few 6 or 7 days per week. We maintain retail, office and industrial properties. Most are small to medium size developments where we can service each in the time it takes to walk them. It might take as little as 5 minutes for a small strip plaza, 20 minutes for a medium size property or an hour or more for a large retail town center.
We don’t clean large enclosed shopping malls as they are cleaned in-house. There are far more of the small to medium size properties that contract out their litter cleanup service.
3. What do you like about having a litter clean up business? What do you not like?
I always enjoyed being or working outdoors. My dad would take me along with him occasionally to help him out. One of his side gigs was cleaning up litter from the outside property of a neighborhood shopping plaza. We would show up in the morning before the businesses had opened and walk the sidewalks, parking lot and landscape and clean up any litter material we saw on the ground. We used simple hand tools to collect empty drink cups, cans or bottles, fast food or candy wrappers and cigarette butts. We disposed of the material we collected into a waste bin on site. My dad did this throughout the week to maintain the property litter free so each time he was there it only took him a matter of minutes to clean.
I decided that a parking lot litter cleanup service would be my choice to start as a side hustle while still working my full-time job.
Unfortunately for me, my dad passed away unexpectedly at the age of 61. I no longer had his experience or contacts to call upon. I did know that property management companies were the prospects for my service. I read as much material I could find about sales and marketing. This is back in time before the internet so I had to scour the bookstores and libraries.
I learned that banks and various levels of government published their own material on how-to business subjects. It’s so much easier to start a business these days!
I’ve been in the parking lot litter cleanup business for 40+ years now.
I don’t do as much cleaning as I used to but still get out there every morning because I love doing it. I love working outdoors in the early morning hours when parking lots are empty and traffic is light. The work is easy with simple hand tools. Almost as easy to do as going for an early morning walk – and getting paid to do it! I use and highly recommend a unique tool that allows me to easily clean up more litter in less time than other tools on the market and make more money.
I don’t like the psychology of people from all walks of life who feel it’s acceptable to discard their litter material wherever they please. I’ll never understand their mentality. But what I do know is their behavior is providing me and many others plenty of business cleaning up after them.
4. How much can a person expect to earn with a parking lot litter clean up business?
So how much money can you make? That depends on how much you desire to work.
Some people are interested in this service strictly as a means to make extra money on the side while keeping their full-time job. Others choose to scale to a full-time business like I did.
It’s your choice.
I’m not going to tell you how to operate your business. I often say, if you work your business, your business will work for you.
I know of people working only an hour or two each day grossing $1,500 to $2,500 per month. I know of others making over $100,000 per year working a 5 hour day.
You can do all the work yourself or recruit an army of people to do the cleaning for you. One of my students has over 300 properties across several states. I place no restrictions or limits as to how much money you wish to make.
5. Where do you put the trash that you collect?
We use simple hand tools to collect empty drink cups, cans or bottles, fast food or candy wrappers and cigarette butts. We dispose of the material we collect into a waste bin on site.
6. Why would businesses pay for a litter clean up service?
Litter cleanup is a duty that may be done by building operators employed by property management companies, landscape or building maintenance contractors or litter cleanup specialists. It’s a service required to maintain the exterior property from neglect just as other exterior services are necessary such as landscape maintenance, snow removal, parking lot sweeping, line marking, pressure washing and parking lot maintenance.
The tenants that make up a property pay into their monthly rent for these services. Property managers budget for these expenses to ensure their properties are well maintained so they will appreciate in value. Property management companies are contracted by the building’s owners to manage them on their behalf. The owners may be pension funds, insurance companies, REITS (Real Estate Investment Trusts) or other real estate investment syndicates.
This service is both recession-proof and pandemic-proof. Litter cleanup is not a service that can be cut back or eliminated without being noticed by the tenants, local community, and shopping public. When people started discarding their used masks in parking lots during COVID our clients made sure our service was maintained to keep their properties sanitary and safe.
Nobody likes to patronize a business with litter scattered about the exterior property.
7. Is this a service that can be done even in the cold winter months?
The parking lot litter cleanup business is not seasonal as some might think. People litter year round regardless of weather conditions.
I clean up more empty coffee cups during the winter months than any other time of year. Smokers toss their cigarette butts without regard to the environment. Snow may temporarily mask litter material in northern regions but will eventually appear in great volume if regular year round service is not maintained.
You dress according to the weather conditions in which you work.
8. What kind of business license, permits, or insurance are needed to start a litter pick up business? How much does it cost to start a litter clean up business?
The startup costs to enter this business are very low.
Your office is home based and your cleaning tools can be stored in your vehicle. You’ll need to decide on a legal structure for your business, come up with a business name, open a business bank account, determine what kind of business license, permits and insurance are required. All of this can be easily done online.
I encourage people to start as a side hustle while working a full-time job. This allows you to boot-strap your business. You continue to have the income generated from your job to pay for your living expenses, while using some savings to pay for startup, then reinvesting the income from your side hustle business back into it to grow.
I would estimate $500 depending on how you’re set up with a home office.
9. How do you find customers for your parking lot cleanup business?
Once I refined my elevator pitch (a sales pitch of sorts) I began cold calling property management companies that I found listed in the Yellow Pages phone directory.
My goal wasn’t to sell them anything. Just to find out the decision maker who I could send more information to. I began to refer to this as “warm calling” as there’s no pressure on either party in this introductory call to conclude a sale. I would briefly introduce myself then explain how my service would be of benefit to them. To whom should I speak to or send information to? I would ask. It’s so much easier today as all one has to do is an online search for property management companies.
Some people tell me that they aren’t good at sales. Well, I’ll tell you that how good you are or become is a matter of attitude. I have an introverted personality. It’s against my nature to strike up a conversation with a stranger. But I have no problem sharing a positive experience with someone. I found the motivation to have a conversation with my prospects by realizing that all I have to do is share how I can solve their problem.
Everyone has had to sell another person something as we go through life. A child will find all sorts of reasons as to why they deserve a new toy or raise in allowance. A teen will muster the courage and determine the appropriate time to ask another out on a date. A young adult will learn how to conduct themselves in a job interview. You see, sales is a learned experience. We all get better with practice.
I think I made about 4 calls when a prospect expressed his desire for me to quote on 5 day per week litter cleanup service at 3 of his shopping plazas. I promptly visited the properties to gather information on pricing then submitted contract proposals. I recall how happy I was when he accepted my proposals and returned to me executed contracts. I began my side hustle outside of my working hours. I was employed from the hours of 2 pm – 10 pm. I would do my business marketing in the morning hours before I went to work and clean my properties after work. I did this for about 3 months until I started making more money from my part-time side hustle than my job as a shipper/receiver. It wasn’t too difficult for me to serve my boss with my 2 weeks notice.
10. If the litter cleanup business can be so successful, then why are you sharing your knowledge?
I decided to share this simple low cost business from home with others. But I wanted to share it with people who are like me when I started out. I had the passion, patience and persistence to make this business successful, but not the deep pockets, education and skills. I can teach the latter two. The cost had to be affordable but not prohibitive.
I ruled out franchising and anything that would have you on the hook financially indefinitely with fees of any sort. This business can be quickly learned and operated without the need for you to keep paying me for the business model.
I’ve been told that I should sell my knowledge in a course. It seems everyone is selling an online course these days for $997, am I right? I settled on a book, which is more of an instructional manual, with your choice of either ebook or hard copy. I enjoy helping others who like me needed a helping hand to start and operate a simple service business that you can feel proud of. My contact information is in the book should you wish to reach out to me for any help. No extra charge. I know my dad would be in agreement.
11. Is there room for new people to start a litter clean up business this year?
There is plenty of room for many people to start a litter cleanup business across the country. The fact is I have nothing to lose by sharing my knowledge.
You can’t compete with me in my market. I choose not to operate in yours.
My primary source of income is generated from my cleaning business. Not from book sales.
My business model has been successful for 40+ years. We clean up litter with unique tools that provide our clients better service at a lower cost.
12. Can you list the steps needed to get started with a litter clean up business?
The following is a step-by-step Business StartUp Checklist that I have in my book, Cleanlots – America’s Simplest Business. I have condensed the information down to just the tasks:
- Choose and register your business name
- Buy a domain name, set up an email address
- Get a business address and phone number
- Create a legal business entity
- Request an EIN
- Open a business checking account
- Obtain licenses and permits
- Get insurance
- Find an accountant
13. Can you tell me more about the resource you offer?
To learn more about the parking lot litter cleanup business opportunity please go to: Cleanlots.com. There’s a free guide that you can download about considering this side hustle opportunity.
There’s also a brief 3 minute video that you can watch to understand how the work is done and see for yourself that it really is almost as easy to do as going for a walk!
Are you interested in starting a litter clean up business?