JunkGator blog

A Comprehensive Guide to Junk Removal

By December 8, 2021 February 11th, 2023 No Comments

As Americans, we throw away a lot of junk. Not only is junk removal necessary to keep our homes and properties clutter-free, but it’s increasingly important for the environment as our landfills keep filling up more and more.

All junk is not alike, however. When we think of junk, we might be thinking of anything that is simply worthless to us yet might be worth something to someone else. Old antique cars used to be junk but are now collectors’ items worth an eye-watering amount at times, for example. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure, as the saying often goes.

While some junk can be given away for free on the curbside, listed online, or donated to charity, a lot of junk isn’t likely to find a new home anytime soon. Old mattresses, broken down appliances, and construction debris are all perfect examples of junk that most of us want out of sight and out of mind for good.

A Comprehensive Guide to Junk Removal Junk Removal Near Me

What is junk removal?

Junk removal is the process of sorting, collecting, and disposing of junk from your property. When we say junk removal, we’re using an umbrella term that refers to specific junk removal services collectively, such as house cleanouts, office cleanouts, bulky item removal, bed and mattress removal, and so on.

In your city or county, municipal solid waste (MSW) is most likely hauled away as trash pickup services from the curbside in a garbage truck. Household garbage and recyclables are hauled away to landfills or recycling centres, but the waste collector (garbage men) won’t touch certain items like mattresses, furniture, or excessive organic yard waste, for instance.

Therefore, junk removal services are needed to collect and haul away junk and to dispose of it in an environmentally-friendly manner. They are incentivized to do this because landfill fees nationwide in the United States are about $53.72 per ton, while the cost of diverting salvageable junk away can be minimal or even free if donated to charities.

Junk removal teams also provide a much-needed service for contractors and property managers undertaking renovations, construction or demolitions work. Construction debris needs to be sorted and hauled off for proper disposal. Junk haulers facilitate the project schedule by removing masses of construction debris in a safe and timely fashion.

Is junk removal a necessary service?

Junk removal is an essential service, especially here in the USA. Mass consumerism and relative affluence have led to wasteful behavior known as a ‘throwaway culture,’ both on the part of households and on product manufacturers that generate excessive packaging only to be tossed away afterwards.

The average American generates 4.9 pounds of MSW per day, with national MSW generation sitting at around 292.4 million tons as of 2018. This is more waste generated than any other country on the planet and about half of it ends up in landfills while around 23.6% goes to recycling.

With so much junk being generated, much of it recyclable or reusable, junk hauling has become a massive industry in the United States. Big national corporations offer waste removal services for homes and businesses, but many small and independent local junk haulers have also sprung up in recent decades to provide a competitive advantage, perhaps in price, quality, and/or dependability.

For customers, it’s a win-win situation since there is greater choice than ever thanks to services such as JunkGator that put you in direct contact with over 500 reputable junk haulers near you. You get your house cleaned out or that old rotten mattress hauled off at affordable prices, the junk haulers dispose of it in a cost-effective and environmentally-friendly manner.

Junk and waste categories

You’ve probably got a pretty good idea as to what ‘junk’ means, but there are lots of similar and sometimes confusing terms used for various types of stuff we want removed from our property. Below are some of the junk and waste categories defined:

  • Garbage: normally, garbage refers to wet or organic kitchen or bathroom waste from houses that decomposes quickly. Garbage originally was used in 16th century Britain and referred to the parts of animals that aren’t eaten (heads, tails, feet, etc.). Some examples include animal bones, fruit & vegetable peels, coffee grounds, and eggshells.
  • Trash: if it’s dry, discarded, and decomposes more slowly than garbage, it’s safe to call it trash. Many items thrown out as trash can be collected by municipal waste collectors, many can be recycled, and some can be composted. The word originally comes from tros (Old Norse) which means “fallen leaves and twigs.” Some common examples include cardboard boxes and paper, branches & twigs, broken furniture, and grass clippings.
  • Waste: here’s where things get a little interesting. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses the term ‘Municipal Solid Waste’ to refer to all trash, garbage and things thrown away, including recyclables, food, tires, furniture, and appliances, but not hazardous, clinical, or toxic waste like industrial sludge, paints & solvents, asbestos, and demolitions waste. Generally speaking, however, waste can be used to mean anything that needs to be removed from a property and disposed of. In everyday speech, waste normally means something of no value whatsoever – worthless and useless.
  • Junk: like waste, junk is also used frequently to mean things that have no worth or value to you (but they might be valuable to someone else). Stuff you’ve got on your property that you want gone for good, like old furniture, a broken down refrigerator, or stacks of old books can all be junk to you and may or may not be of some value to another person. Examples include bulky items, organic yard waste, appliances, excess trash, trampolines, hot tubs, scrap metal, concrete blocks, and much more.
  • Rubbish: in most parts of the United States, we don’t really use the British term ‘rubbish’ at all. Over the pond, they use rubbish to mean garbage and trash collectively.
  • Refuse: a formal term that means anything thrown away or discarded. You might hear this term from municipal civil engineers or in waste collection reports, but it isn’t used so much in everyday speech.

Junk haulers near you typically collect and haul away junk that the municipal garbage collection cannot or will not touch. Each and every company has their own areas of specialization, with some specializing in construction and demolitions debris removal and yet others specializing in residential and commercial property cleanouts.

Few companies are willing to handle hazardous waste, however. It’s always best to contact junk haulers near you and inquire with them directly whether or not they’re willing to haul away a specific type (or quantity) of junk from your property.

Most junk haulers in the United States tend to provide junk pick up services for residential and commercial customers, so let’s have a deeper look at the types of services they provide for each.

Residential junk removal

One of the most common types of junk removal takes place at residential homes and apartment units. Whether you’re doing some spring cleaning and need to toss out some old furniture or if you’re a property manager and need to have some rental units cleaned out completely, junk haulers are an essential partner to help de-clutter residential properties.

The most basic service that most junk haulers provide is a full house cleanout, or partial house cleanouts for specific rooms like the garage, attic, or basement, as well as hauling away organic yard waste.

What type of junk do residential house cleanout teams of junk haulers deal with? Below are a few examples:

  • Beds & mattresses
  • Tables & chairs
  • Couches, sofas, loveseats & sectionals
  • Hot tubs & spas
  • Sheds
  • Pianos
  • Carpets
  • Bathtubs & toilets
  • Sauna & steam room junk
  • Kitchen units
  • Kitchen appliances
  • Dressers & wardrobes
  • Patio furniture
  • Electronics (e-waste)
  • Bicycles
  • Yard waste
  • General garbage & trash
  • Refrigerators & freezers
  • Pool & billiards tables

Commercial property junk removal

Businesses come and go; some grow, some shut their doors for a while or for good. There is always a need for reliable junk haulers to come by commercial properties such as retail shops, supermarkets, and offices.

When it comes to commercial property junk removal, the burden of collecting and disposing of junk like partition walls, shelving units, office furniture and electronics can be substantial. The proper disposal of office equipment and electronic waste, for example, must be done carefully and safely, especially when dealing with sensitive data.

One of the most common types of commercial property junk removal is a full or partial office cleanout. Junk haulers can safely and efficiently assist with the removal of a wide range of office and commercial property junk such as:

  • Office desks, chairs, and other furniture
  • Retail store signage, displays, and flooring
  • Computers and other IT assets
  • Photocopiers, printers, and scanners
  • Shelving units
  • Partition walls & cubicles
  • Accumulated trash

Recyclables vs non-recyclable junk

Landfills across the United States began to reach a real tipping point by the 1970s. That’s around the time when Americans began in earnest to recycle household trash for curbside collection.

According to the EPA, MSW recycling in the United States has risen steadily from around 10% in 1980 to around 32.1% (including composting) by 2018. It’s certainly an improvement, but there’s still a lot of trash being thrown away that’s perfectly recyclable which ends up in landfills.

While sorting out your waste streams is useful for recycling purposes, a lot of junk that isn’t picked up by your sanitation department can still be recycled either partially or fully.


Paper and cardboard are the predominant recyclable materials in the USA, amounting to 66.54% of all MSW recycled in 2018. Glass, wood, plastics, metals, rubber, leather and textiles make up the remainder of recyclable waste. Keep in mind that only around 23.6% of MSW in the United States is recycled and 8.5% is composted, which adds up to the aforementioned total of 32.1% from the previous section.

While most homeowners in the United States have developed good recycling habits for curbside recycling, the same cannot be said of the countless couches and sofas, furniture, and electronics that get tossed away every year. These are some typical examples of junk that can be partially or fully recycled. Reputable junk haulers near you can collect these items and dispose of them properly, only dumping them into a landfill when all other options have been exhausted.

Landfill waste

Half of all MSW in the United States ends up in landfills. There are around 2,600 landfills across the Union either currently in operation or as candidate landfills to handle MSW. California has the most by a country mile with 300 landfills in the Golden State.

Although landfills have a poor reputation as being ‘dumps’ federal regulations have greatly reduced the negative environmental impacts of landfills. This, combined with recent developments pertaining to the difficulties of recycling from 2017 onwards have once again made sensible landfill dumping a practical and economic necessity – albeit one that bears less environmental hazards as the landfills of decades past.

Other waste streams

Almost 50% of MSW in the United States ends up in landfills and around 32.1% is either composted or recycled. Where does the other 17.9% end up? As of 2018, 6.1% ends up in other food management pathways, i.e. food waste is converted to animal feed, used in wastewater treatment, for land applications, or donated to charitable organizations.

The remaining 11.8% is converted to energy in waste-to-energy facilities (sometimes called incinerators). Around 34.6 million tons of waste were combusted in these facilities in 2018.

Hiring a junk removal service near you vs doing it yourself

You may be wondering whether it’s cheaper to haul away junk yourself or to pay someone else to do it on your behalf. Price is an important consideration, of course, but you should also consider other aspects such as how much you value your own time, whether or not you have the skills and expertise needed to remove bulky items like pianos or refrigerators, and how you intend to haul off your junk and dispose of it.

If you choose a junk hauler to do it for you, then you don’t need to worry about any of these questions – all you’ve got to do is pay them for their services and sit back and relax.

By choosing a reliable junk removal company near you, you’ll usually get 2-3 skilled junk haulers to come by your home or commercial property in a specially-adapted vehicle. The guys will collect your junk, navigate it up/down flights of stairs if needed, and extricate it from your home safely and without causing damage. The junk is then loaded onto the vehicle and hauled away for proper disposal.

Depending on the type of junk being removed, the junk haulers may recycle it, donate it to charity, compost it, or if all else fails, dump it at the landfill.

In summary, junk removal companies save you time and energy while also preventing injuries that you may sustain trying to yank out a grand piano all on your own (not recommended, by the way).

Is it worth renting a dumpster?

Dumpster rentals are a popular choice for property owners looking to get rid of a substantial amount of junk over a continual period of a few days, weeks, or even months. They’re an excellent choice for construction and demolitions contractors for that exact reason. Roofers and builders tend to prefer dumpsters because the project could take a few weeks and generate a lot of building waste every day, so hiring a team of junk haulers every day wouldn’t be as practical in this specific example.

In most other circumstances, however, dumpsters just aren’t worth it. The cost of renting a dumpster is around $280-$490 per week on average, sometimes exceeding $780 depending on where you live in the United States.

You’ve also got to consider permits; dumpsters that cannot be located on your property and thus need to be located on public right-of-way like on the side of the road may require permits which can cost time and money.

Also, keep in mind that not all waste can go into a dumpster. If you fail to sort out waste properly and mix hazardous waste with building waste, for example, you’ll incur fines and penalties which the dumpster rental company assuredly will charge you for.

Live in a HOA? Good luck getting permission to leave a dumpster anywhere on or off your property for any substantial length of time.

All in all, dumpsters are only really worth it for building contractors and demolitions crews. For all other cases, local, genuine junk haulers near you will cost less, get the job done efficiently and quickly, and save you plenty of hassle.

Costs of hiring junk removal services

How much does it cost to hire a junk removal service near you? Unlike with dumpsters, which are somewhat standardized in price for various regions across the United States, junk hauling services vary so widely that an estimated average would be pretty unreliable.

It didn’t stop us from trying, however. Check out our prices page to get a better idea of national average costs for junk removal services, but take it with a pretty big pinch of salt since the prices can fluctuate significantly depending on various factors.

In brief, two of the biggest factors to consider are the quantity of junk and the type. More junk generally costs more to remove. A full house cleanout will cost more than picking up a single refrigerator, for example.

Secondly, some junk costs more to remove than others. Electronics, mattresses, and other specific items like paints & solvents which are hazardous waste command a surcharge at landfills, so the junk haulers will hike up prices for specific items like these.

How much does it cost to pick up junk?

Again, it depends. The cost of picking up junk from your property will vary depending on many factors such as quantity and type of junk. Location is also important to consider. Junk hauling services in midtown Manhattan will most certainly come at premium prices, whereas similar services in Small Town, Idaho might cost a fraction simply due to cost of living.

Also keep in mind that the distance that junk haulers need to drive to get to your property, as well as the distances required to haul it off to landfills and recycling centers will result in higher or lower prices based on proximity. That’s one of many reasons why it’s best to hire a local, genuine junk hauler near you using a service such as JunkGator.

Is it normal to tip junk haulers?

Although as Americans we aren’t unique in the world for tipping culture, it’s a neverending debate it seems as to what we should or shouldn’t tip for. Restaurant waiters? Sure. City bus drivers? Not likely. Junk haulers? It depends!

  • If you’ve gotten excellent service and the guys showed up on time, professionally, reliably, and got the job done then they certainly won’t say no to a reasonable tip!
  • A nominal tip (the amount is up to you) goes a long way towards rewarding good, honest service.
  • If they’ve had to break a sweat moving furniture up or down flights of stairs all day, a tip will certainly help to lift their spirits.

Things to look for in a junk hauler

There’s a lot of choice these days for junk removal companies near you. But not all junk haulers are alike. Some are reliable, affordable, and provide superb services; others are not so reputable, perhaps uninsured, or even worse, some may be operating illegally and dumping illegally.

Since there is so much variation in quality, it’s important you consider a few key traits in a junk hauler before letting them onto your property in the first place. A good, honest junk hauler won’t have any problems answering the below questions. A shady ‘business’ will simply hang up the phone – and that’s a good thing for you since you save on potential headaches later on.

  • Insurance: is the business insured in the event of damage to your property?
  • Services: do the junk haulers remove all junk? Do they provide house cleanouts or office cleanouts? Do they work with construction debris?
  • Reputation: have the junk haulers got experience moving furniture down flights of stairs or will it be their first time? Generally, more experienced junk haulers work more safely and efficiently, but they may charge a premium for their experience and reputation.
  • Environmentally friendly: do the junk haulers recycle junk properly or do they dump everything in a landfill? Do they donate junk to divert it from landfills?
  • Reliability: will the junk haulers be at your property at the scheduled time? Do they get the job done efficiently?
  • Prices: too cheap is a big red flag (probably illegal dumping), too expensive is also undesirable. Can they provide you with a FREE, no-obligation quote? That’s perfect.

Even if you’ve asked all of these questions, there’s still a chance that you may be working with a shady junk hauler that’s simply lying to you through their teeth. That’s why we encourage you to find vetted and approved junk haulers near you by using JunkGator.

How to remove junk safely by yourself

Want to save a few bucks and get rid of your junk yourself? Here’s what you’ll need to get the job done:

  • Dress appropriately (old t-shirts from yesteryear, some gloves, face mask & goggles if working with dust)
  • Stretch before doing any heavy lifting
  • Stay hydrated
  • Lift with your knees, not your back!
  • Avoid dealing with any hazardous waste (asbestos, lead paint, etc.)
  • Don’t overdo it and call a professional if you ever feel unsafe

What is JunkGator?

There’s plenty of choice when it comes to finding affordable, reputable, and reliable junk haulers near you in the United States. Do you know how to find these small junk hauling companies? Chances are, if you’ve been looking online for “junk removal near me” you’ll quickly find all of the big national corporations more than willing to get the job done – at premium prices, of course.

Where are all the ‘mom and pop’ junk removal companies? Sometimes, they might have a social media profile or a webpage buried down in the 5th or 6th tabs of Google search results – basically, they don’t exist! That’s what JunkGator attempts to resolve.

We work with independent, local junk haulers near you and give them greater visibility online. We also make sure that every junk hauler listed on our online platform has been vetted and approved to meet our high standards for quality, customer satisfaction, and reliability.

It’s a win-win for you, the customer, and for our junk hauler members. You get greater choice as a customer to find genuine, local junk haulers at affordable prices; the junk haulers get more traction and more business without having to try to compete with the big corporations in marketing.

We have over 500 registered junk removal businesses listed on our platform for customers to choose from in cities, counties, and states all across the United States. Customers don’t need to register or pay any fees at all, and better yet, can request one or more FREE, no-obligation quotes from nearby junk haulers.

What services can I find on JunkGator?

If you are in need of bulky item removal, house cleanouts, office cleanouts, or any other kind of junk removal from your residential or commercial property, there are nearby junk haulers willing to come pick up junk and haul it away on your behalf.

JunkGator works with junk removal teams that may or may not all provide similar services. Some might only do construction debris, others might not even touch it. Always ask your preferred junk hauler what they do and don’t haul away before having them come over.

How much does JunkGator cost for junk removal services?

JunkGator is 100% FREE to use. No ifs, ands, or buts. If you find a local junk hauler in your ZIP code by using JunkGator, you can request free, no-obligation quotes from whichever ones you like and choose your preferred junk hauler to work with.

The cost for junk removal services is dictated by your preferred junk hauler’s quote (and since they’re small businesses, they’re a little more willing to haggle over prices than the big names). We do not control how little or how much they charge for various services, but generally their prices are affordable and competitive.

Does JunkGator donate junk to charitable organizations?

Not directly, but registered members on JunkGator do donate junk to charity in order to keep costs low and to benefit the environment through the three R’s: reducing, reusing, and recycling.

Some charitable organizations such as Salvation Army only accept certain types of junk for donations. Goodwill is another organization that continues to revise its policies. Whereas a few years ago, Goodwill accepted couches and sofas, this no longer seems to be the case in 2022.

In brief, it depends, but many local and community charities do accept certain types of junk like old furniture or electronics and our junk hauler partners will try to donate if possible before sending junk to recycling centers or landfills.

Use JunkGator to find reliable junk removal services near you

We’ve made JunkGator as simple and straightforward as possible for Americans all across our great nation to find affordable, reliable, and quality-approved junk removal services from genuine local businesses.



My role is to fact check original and engaging content published on the JunkGator website. I like to consider myself somewhat of an expert on eco-friendly waste management.