Got bags of garbage piling up and need to get rid of it all? Most Americans can simply leave their trash and garbage at the curbside for routine collection, but others sometimes call junk haulers to dispose of it quickly and for affordable prices.
What’s the difference between garbage collection and junk removal and, perhaps more importantly, when should you consider using one or the other?
The differences between trash, garbage, and junk
The first thing to consider is the difference between different types of refuse (basically anything that’s thrown away). Fuller definitions of the terms trash, garbage, and junk can be found in our comprehensive guide to junk removal. The short version is:
- Trash: household waste such as paper, cans, boxes, packaging, and yard waste. Many types of trash can be recycled or composted, while others are disposed of in a landfill.
- Garbage: normally ‘wet’ kitchen or bathroom waste, like eggshells, food scraps, bones, and coffee grounds. Some garbage can be composted, some gets dumped into a landfill where it decomposes.
- Junk: any unwanted items that have no value to you any longer, like old furniture, broken appliances, bricks, yard waste, or bags full of unused clothes.
In America, we distinguish between trash and garbage, although both terms are sometimes colloquially used interchangeably. In Britain, however, they lump the two together and call it “rubbish” instead.
The term “junk” can sometimes include extra trash or garbage, i.e. junk can be garbage and vice versa. Things like old trampolines or broken down refrigerators are often called junk when we no longer want them, for example. Extra bags of trash from a full eviction cleanout, for example, would be both trash and junk at the same time.
Garbage collection in the United States
Most property owners are eligible to receive routine garbage collection from the curbside of their property. This helps keep household waste out of sight and out of mind, but the type of service you’ll receive can vary quite a bit depending on where you live in the United States as well as a few other factors. Moreover, the cost of these services can also vary quite a bit.
How garbage collection services work
If you own residential property in the United States, you’ll need to inquire with your city or county to receive routine garbage and trash collection from your property. This also applies to some commercial businesses, so it’s even more important that you inquire with them so that you have a solution.
In most municipalities and counties, collection takes place weekly. The exact date often varies depending on the route taken by the garbage truck, which is often laid out according to neighborhood or region in a city. Check your city or county website to find out the time and date of curbside collection.
In terms of how city/county waste collection is operated, some cities have their own sanitation departments and perform all collection themselves. Others hand exclusive contracts to professional waste management companies while others outsource everything to junk removal companies.
What matters most to you as the property owner is how much you have to pay and when payment is due. Again, this varies so much from area to area across the United States. For example, some cities bundle in curbside collection with your taxes, others will bill you monthly or quarterly.
Do pay attention to the details, such as collection time and date, what type of bins or containers to use, what type of trash and garbage they do (and more importantly don’t) accept, and take note of public holiday schedules.
How much does garbage collection cost?
The cost of garbage collection varies quite a bit across the United States. Most Americans pay around $20 to $80 per month for curbside collection. For small 20-gallon bins, expect to pay between $10 to $45 per month.
Some of the factors that affect the price of curbside collection include:
- Location: dense urban cities where the garbage trucks have to navigate through traffic and haul garbage far away to a landfill can cost more. Similarly, remote areas can cost more due to the extra mileage needed to get there. Mid-sized cities and towns often cost less for curbside collection.
- Service contract: the type of contract that the city/county has with an outsourced company (or if they do it themselves) can affect the total price per resident.
- Type of household waste: ordinary trash and garbage are normally “free” as long as they fit in the specified containers, i.e. they are included in your bill. Recyclables are also normally free, but bulky items or hazardous waste might not be collected at all or command a surcharge.
- Quantity of household waste: most curbside collection in the United States requires that trash, garbage, recyclables and other waste fit in the provided containers. These containers can range from around 20 gallons to around 90 gallons in size. If you need extra bins/containers, you’ll often have to pay more.
- Additional charges: anything beyond typical trash, garbage, and recyclables will often cost you more. For example, hazardous waste pick ups and construction debris removal can cost more. Electronic waste is another type of item that normally has a surcharge per item. Also, the city/county may charge you an initial setup fee and/or for the cost of the containers.
- Freebies: conversely, some cities and counties offer free collection services for some items, either on a one-off basis (call to request), every week/month, or as an event. For example, many cities offer free collection of up to two bulky items per month. Many cities also collect yard trimmings for free during the summer and fall, or charge a nominal amount per bag.
Can you get rid of trash by yourself?
If you’re looking to save a few pennies, you could always get rid of your household waste by yourself. Most landfills accept waste from residents and charge by the ton, with a flat fee of around $35 (very rough estimate) for anything less than a ton.
Here’s the problem, though. If you’re paying $40/month for curbside collection, for example, you’re saving a total of five bucks to do it yourself. You’ll have to haul it there, weigh it, and dump it all by yourself. Also, that means you’re probably going to be doing this once per month, so just imagine the stinky smell wafting through your home with the garbage left rotting for weeks on end.
In short, it just isn’t worth it to DIY your own garbage removal. The only time you might want to consider it is if the sanitation workers go on strike, but even then it’s simply easier and more convenient to hire a reputable junk hauler near you to do the job.
Professional junk removal services in the United States
Junk haulers are professionals that do exactly what’s in their job title: they haul junk! They haul unwanted items on your property, from old dinner tables to broken dishwashers, bags of old books, timber and scrap metal, office partition walls, or just about any other stuff cluttering up your home or business.
This also means that junk haulers can help get rid of garbage and trash from your home or business, since it’s essentially unwanted junk and that’s exactly what they haul.
What is a junk hauler and which services do they provide?
A junk hauler is someone that hauls away junk from properties. They either work independently as a small business or as part of a junk removal franchise, and anyone in the United States can find an independent junk hauler easily thanks to platforms such as JunkGator.
Their services can vary, but their bread and butter is simple junk removal. They’ll haul away junk like furniture, mattresses, electronics, appliances, scrap metal, tires, and much more. Some also provide specialized services, such as partial and full house cleanouts, whereby they’ll de-clutter an entire room or property and give it a professional cleaning afterwards.
Others provide moving assistance, which includes removing and packing up your belongings and perhaps moving them to another city or state, but this gets more into the domain of a dedicated moving company.
How much does junk removal cost?
The average cost of junk removal in the United States is around $233 per job, but that figure should be taken with an extra large pinch of salt. The variance in junk removal costs is high, with some jobs perhaps costing $75 for an old refrigerator or perhaps $500 for a full garage cleanout.
If you’re interested in knowing how much junk removal costs in the US, read our previous blog post that goes into greater detail on this topic.
Is it worth hiring a junk hauler?
Hiring a junk hauler near you can be one of the quickest and easiest ways to get rid of junk, but is it worth it? Well, it depends. It’s probably not cost-effective to call a junk hauler every single week as an alternative to curbside collection, but that’s not the main reason why most people call them.
We’ve already mentioned that many cities and counties have quite extensive lists of things that they don’t accept for curbside collection, as well as limits on how much ordinary trash and garbage they’ll collect. In these instances, calling a junk hauler is the best way to get rid of unwanted junk that the city/county won’t collect.
Also, the garbage truck that passes through your neighborhood won’t stop at your house and help you de-clutter your entire home – that’s what junk haulers are for!
What’s the difference between garbage collection and junk removal?
Hopefully you should have a better understanding of the differences between garbage collection and junk hauler services. They both get rid of unwanted trash and garbage, but they’re very different apart from that. In other words, they are different services for different purposes.
For most of your ordinary household trash and garbage, just leave it at the curb and let the city sanitation department come pick it up once a week. For bulky items, construction debris, excess trash or garbage, or for full property cleanout services, call a local junk hauler near you.
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