The True Cost of Commercial Waste Disposal

Rob Binns

You’ve fastened the faucets and downsized the dumpsters, but your commercial waste disposal costs are still climbing. What gives?

There’s a lot to unpack, but here’s the short answer: you definitely can control costs, and we’re going to explain how.

But first, let’s be honest about the cost of commercial waste disposal. It’s rarely cheap (or easy) to manage business-critical processes in-house, and commercial waste disposal is no exception. More often than not, outsourcing saves money. Fortunately, there are plenty of commercial waste disposal companies willing to do the dirty work for you.

With that in mind, let’s dumpster dive right into the nitty-gritty of commercial waste disposal costs. If you’re already looking for providers, one of our trusted partners can help you compare quotes.

commercial waste disposal

Keep your hands clean and let a waste management company handle the heavy lifting

What is the Cost of Commercial Waste Disposal?

The fight against rising commercial waste disposal costs starts with understanding the different components of your bill. There are four types of costs that you need to consider:

Commercial Waste Container Costs

You can buy or rent commercial waste containers of different sizes. Average monthly rents and purchase prices for each type of container are shown in the table below:

Average Commercial Waste Container Prices

Container TypeSizeAvg Monthly RentAvg Purchase Price
front-loading boxFront-loading box4yd3$15$350
roll-off containerRoll-off container30yd3$60$2,000
(without compactor)
(with compactor)

What’s the Best Container Size for My Business?

The most cost-effective container is one that you can fill, but not to the brim. Come pickup time, you’ll be charged extra for any makeshift containers holding excess waste.

If in doubt, go for a size bigger than you need so that you don’t have to worry about waste overflowing as your workforce grows.

Is it Better to Buy or to Rent Commercial Waste Containers?

It really depends on how long you plan to keep your container(s) for. Take a look at the “break even” point for buying and renting a typical 4yd3 box container on the graph below:

As you can see, buying only makes sense if you plan to keep a container for at least 23 months. Because of this, and the low cost of renting, most small businesses choose to rent.

Commercial Waste Collection Costs

Collection costs vary depending on your location, container size, and collection frequency. Up-to-date collection rates for a leading waste management services firm are shown in the table below:

Monthly Collection Costs by Container Size and Number of Pickups

Container SizeNumber of Pickups/Week
20 gallon$29.28
32 gallon$46.90
64 gallon$60.08
96 gallon$72.88$141.99$268.23$351.18$414.33$497.17

Source: Republic Services Commercial Waste Collection Rates 2017-18 (City of Salinas)

What’s the Ideal Collection Frequency?

Anywhere from daily to monthly, depending on the nature of your business and the size of your premises. For example, regular collections are essential in restaurants, for hygiene reasons, but less important in retail outlets, where there’s no health risk to storing junk on-site.

Commercial Waste Transfer Costs

Your waste has a long way to travel before it reaches the landfill. You have to account for the fuel and transportation costs of getting it there.

There are basically two ways you can transfer waste to the landfill:

  • Direct transfer – waste is transported from your premises to the landfill in a single trip
  • Indirect transfer – waste is transported from your premises to a transfer station, where it’s stored and batched before being shipped to a landfill site

What’s the Best Way to Transfer Commercial Waste?

There’s all sorts of complex economics involved in deciding which method is best in each case. A lot depends on where your premises are located in relation to landfill sites. The further away you are, the more you’ll need to rely on transfer stations to dispose of your waste. Of course, that increases costs – transfer stations aren’t free to use.

Waste management contractors like Republic Services and Rubicon maintain relationships with transfer stations and commercial landfills (see below) across the country, giving their customers access to special rates. This is the main reason why it’s cheaper to outsource commercial waste disposal to a professional waste management provider.

Commercial Waste Landfill Costs

The other major cost of commercial waste disposal is a landfill tipping fee. A landfill tipping fee is a charge levied against anyone who disposes of waste in a landfill. Different landfills charge anywhere from $25-$150 per ton. Most offer preferential rates for customers of the top commercial waste management firms.

Here’s a look at average landfill tipping fees in each state in 2018:

Average Landfill Tipping Fees by State (2018)

Are There Any Hidden Commercial Waste Disposal Costs?

Here’s a quick look at other common charges you might get billed for:

  • Dismount and Push Charge – applies when drivers have to get out of their cab and push your containers to an unobstructed spot for emptying. Levied on a per bin basis.
  • Key Charge – applies when drivers require a key to unlock any locked containers. Levied on a per bin basis.
  • Enclosure Charge – applies when drivers have to remove your bins from a fenced enclosure and replace them when emptied. Levied on a per bin basis.
  • Gate Service Charge – applies when drivers have to open a closed or locked gate to access your containers. Levied on a per bin basis.
  • Long Walk Charge – applies when your containers are placed a certain distance (i.e. 10 feet) away from where collection trucks have access. Levied on a (you guessed it) per bin basis.
  • Regulatory Charges – these cover haulers against the costs of complying with environmental regulations and fluctuating fuel prices.

Next Steps

Now you should have a better idea of why commercial waste disposal costs as much as it does. Just remember, every business creates waste, but few have the resources to properly manage it. With the right waste management expertise at your disposal, you’ll be one of the few that does.

To learn more about which contractors offer the best low-cost service, read our roundup of the best commercial waste management companies.

Written by:
Rob Binns
Rob Binns Senior Writer

Rob writes mainly about the payments industry, but also brings to the table industry-specific knowledge of CRM software, business loans, fulfilment, and invoice finance. When not exasperating his editor with bad puns, he can be found relaxing in a sunny (socially-distanced) corner, with a beer and a battered copy of Dostoevsky.