Side Hustle #71: Trash Picker-Upper ($30-$50/hr!)

by Guest Writer - Published July 14, 2017

make money picking up trash

[Heyo! Got an email from a guy who’s made a living out of picking up trash around business complexes, and thought it was so fascinating that I asked if he’d write up a little something something for us. He obliged, and our Side Hustle Series continues forward! (And now I’m seriously considering trying this out myself! Sounds like a great way to make money on the side!!]

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Does earning $30-$50/hour sound appealing? How about the freedom that comes from working outdoors, whenever you want for as long as you want, and having the rest of the day to yourself to do as you please?

These are just a couple of the benefits of being a parking lot litter removal contractor.

You don’t need any special skills or expensive equipment to be successful in this business. All you need is the motivation to work for yourself. It’s an opportunity for people looking for an honest business and an ideal side hustle since the after hours nature of the service won’t conflict with your day job.

How I Got Started

brian winch cleanlots

Let me take you back to the year of 1981…

I was working at a sporting goods store, completely uninspired by my job and lacking motivation for it.

My prospects were slim as all I had was a high school diploma and a small savings account. But what I did have was the motivation to change my life for the better and a willingness to work for myself.

That’s when I remembered my father used to make extra money on the side by cleaning up litter in a neighborhood shopping plaza. I had gone along with him a few times as a kid, and I remembered thinking how easy it was. It was literally a case of us walking around the property cleaning up litter before the stores opened the next day and getting paid for it.

It was then that I decided to start a home-based litter cleanup business part-time so the work didn’t interfere with my full-time job. I contacted property management companies and offered to clean their retail, office and warehouse properties on a daily basis.

After just two months I was making more money than in my full-time job. I bet you can guess what I did next… I QUIT MY JOB!

I turned my $200 investment into a $650,000+ per year business. I never dreamed I could turn a trash business into such an enjoyable lifestyle, but I did. And I know others who are making an extra $20,000 – $50,000 a year on the side by doing the same.

How It Works

Parking lot litter removal is mostly done daily, on foot, using inexpensive hand tools. You simply walk the exterior property of any retail, office or industrial property and sweep up litter into your litter collection bag. When your collection bag is full, you just empty it into a waste dumpster right there on site.

It’s almost as easy as going for a walk!

The selling point is that your service can be provided for significantly less than what the power sweeping contractors charge. (Don’t worry, you’re not expected to sweep up any gravel or dirt. Their services will still be required for that – albeit less often – you’re just taking over the daily litter part of the job.)

Look around your city on your next walk or drive. It’s amazing how many commercial properties with parking lots are all around you! Each one must be maintained litter free on a regular basis. The potential is huge.

How to Get Business

Commercial Real Estate Management companies are your best source for business. They are contracted by property owners to manage their commercial properties. A management company typically has several properties in their portfolio.

You’re looking for small to medium sized properties to handle (shopping plazas, office buildings, free standing restaurants, dollar stores, drug stores, warehouse clubs, banks, clinics and even landscape contractors ). These smaller properties can easily be covered by foot in only a matter of minutes.

This your market.

For more tips, check out this step-by-step manual I created on how to start and run a parking lot litter cleaning business: Cleanlots.com. It really is America’s simplest business!

cleanlots book

Pros of Being a Litter Removal Contractor

  • Great pay
  • Great for the environment
  • Ideal side hustle as the hours won’t conflict with day job
  • No expensive equipment to buy
  • No special skills or education needed
  • (Editor’s note: tons of time to think, listen to music, learn with podcasts??)

Cons of Litter Removing

  • Late night/early morning work required (after the stores have closed and there are no vehicles parked and in your way)
  • It’s all outdoor (must be able to work in all weather conditions – rain, sleet, snow)
  • Working alone can get lonely
  • It’s manual labor
  • (Editor’s note: maybe a safety factor for women during nights?)

Other Nice Perks

I get to take pride in performing a green service that makes a positive impact on the local environment. The daily routine is also nice, and the job is never boring.

I’m constantly amazed at how careless people can be with their money too. A few times a year I find paper bills on the ground usually outside a restaurant or bar. People seem to unintentionally drop them as they reach for their car keys in their pockets.

Years ago I found a crumpled $2 bill on the ground, and was even more surprised to discover a $100 bill wrapped inside of it. Another time I noticed a grimy roll of bills next to the waste dumpster as I went to empty my collecting bag. After taking it home and drying it out (it looked like it had been there for quite some time), I counted up all the bills – $600! Someone’s careless loss turned into my profitable gain.

If you’re looking for a simple, easy way to make some extra cash around your community, this is the gig for you.

Start picking up the phone or check out my book for an illustrated, easy-to-follow manual on everything I’ve learned over the past 36 years. Someone’s trash really is your treasure! (<— Editor’s note: sorry, had to do it ;))

brian winch picking up trash

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Brian Winch is the founder and owner of Cleanlots, America’s simplest business. He’s been perfecting the litter removing business for over 30 years and enjoys sharing the benefits of it with others. Links to his book above are affiliate links.

Trash not your thing? Check out the last few hustles we’ve featured here:

Thank you for reading Budgets Arrghh Sexy! If you'd like to submit one of your own juicy ideas, we'll gladly review: budgetsaresexy.com/contact.

{ 57 comments… read them below or add one }

1 BMG July 14, 2017 at 6:32 am

What a great interview. If it wasn’t for the awesome picture at the top of him sweeping money into the bag 80’s style I may not have kept reading… ;)

This is a great idea – not for me, but for someone out there looking for some side income.

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2 J. Money July 14, 2017 at 6:44 am

Haha… it really should be nominated for best pic of the year :) (back then, and 2017!)

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3 High Income Parents July 14, 2017 at 6:55 am

It’s really cool when someone has an idea and fills a niche nobody else thinks of or is willing to do.
This might be the ultimate stealth wealth creator. I doubt anyone suspects he’s banking that much money, that is unless he rolls up to the parking lot in his Rolls Royce and hops out with his trash gear in tow.

Tom @ HIP

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4 J. Money July 14, 2017 at 7:15 am

Right?? Gotta love the stealth.

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5 Lance @ My Strategic Dollar July 14, 2017 at 7:57 am

Awesome! I certainly didn’t how lucrative parking lot litter removal was! Happy to see someone taking on an initiative that’s good for the environment, and banking doing it!

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6 Brian Winch July 14, 2017 at 2:08 pm

Big money to be made for those of us wanting to do it!

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7 Mrs. Adventure Rich July 14, 2017 at 8:02 am

This is awesome! It never ceases to amaze me how people are able to monetize something seemingly simple and find a niche market.

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8 Chris @ Duke of Dollars July 14, 2017 at 8:14 am

How did you go about setting prices with the companies that you work for?

For a techie person, I see this as an awesome businesses opportunity. Tech person sets up a really nice site with an easy checkout, business pays them for litter pick up, then the trash picker upper gets the work, the tech person gets a small cut.

Or if you are a tech person yourself, you can create the web site to get more customers!

I’m assuming with the 6 figure number you hired others to help lol!

Very interesting post and way to seize on the opportunity to be outside !

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9 J. Money July 14, 2017 at 1:31 pm

Uber for trash picking! Haha…..

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10 Brian Winch July 14, 2017 at 2:12 pm

Prices are based on the time it takes to walk and clean a particular property. Your monthly contract price is based on $35 – $50/hr. Most people can get this. Markets vary across the country.

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11 Chris @ Duke of Dollars July 14, 2017 at 2:42 pm

Right ! lol! Same concept – ah what an interesting time of history we are living in!

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12 Budget on a Stick July 14, 2017 at 8:21 am

Its amazing how people find these “little jobs” they can do and just make them blow up into huge businesses!

That’s really cool Brian! Congratulations!

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13 Brian Winch July 14, 2017 at 2:15 pm

Thanks! I found a niche and specialize in a service enjoy providing.

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14 Brian July 14, 2017 at 8:29 am

Love it! nice side hustle that turns into a full-time gig. Isn’t Mr.Groovey doing this on youtube now for free? :)

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15 J. Money July 14, 2017 at 1:32 pm

I literally *just* emailed this post over to them, haha….

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16 Church July 14, 2017 at 8:57 am

It just goes to show, amassing a fortune is all about small, consistent, savings. Not fancy/expensive educations, trading options and understanding volatility risk, or owning a 30 unit apartment unit.

My man is still rockin’ the ‘Stache today! Love it!

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17 Brian Winch July 14, 2017 at 2:17 pm

I’ve had my “stache” for about 40 years!

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18 J. Money July 14, 2017 at 2:42 pm

It was cool back then, and these days it’s even cooler ;)

Though I’ll have to challenge you to a ‘stache duel one day!

http://cointhrill.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/j-money-mustache.jpg

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19 Ms. Frugal Asian Finance July 14, 2017 at 8:59 am

Thank you for sharing such an inspiring story, Brian! It’s always great to hear how many successful business owners have grown exponentially over the years through hard work and dedication. Wishing more success coming your way!

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20 Brian Winch July 14, 2017 at 2:18 pm

Thank you for your comments.

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21 Mrs. Picky Pincher July 14, 2017 at 9:00 am

This is so interesting! I had no idea this was even a thing. I always assumed janitorial staff of stores cleaned parking lots. Huh! The pay ain’t too shabby either. :)

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22 Brian Winch July 14, 2017 at 2:19 pm

Some janitors do, but most don’t want the exterior work.

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23 Dave July 14, 2017 at 9:05 am

That is a brilliant business idea. It truly serves a need that people would rather not do themselves. It sounds like a great side gig that can be developed into a full-time business.

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24 Brian Winch July 14, 2017 at 2:23 pm

That’s exactly my story. I started this as a side hustle while working a full time day job. The service is provided “after hours” – before the businesses open, so it doesn’t conflict with your day job.

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25 Dads Dollars Debts July 14, 2017 at 9:36 am

American ingenuity at work. Gotta love the side hustles that there are out there. Very inspiring story indeed and looks like something I would have enjoyed doing. And trash can definitely become treasure!

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26 Chris @ Keep Thrifty July 14, 2017 at 10:21 am

This was one of my first jobs – back when I was in middle school. My brother and I arranged to do this with one of my dad’s business associates and we’d clean lots around the Twin Cities every Sunday.

While it was a dirty job (my hands constantly smelled like latex cleaning gloves), I agree with a lot of what the author put in here. It did feel nice to help clean a space up and we got lots of chill time in the car. We even arranged to get paid mileage and a reduced hourly rate during our drive time (since that was a significant portion).

Even back then, it was good money – by the time I took it over from my brother and did it alone, I got paid $20 an hour while cleaning and $10 an hour while in the car. Pretty awesome rate for a high school student!

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27 J. Money July 14, 2017 at 1:34 pm

Nice!! Imagine if there were podcasts or ipod around back then too? (Or did you rock an old school boombox or travel cd player? Haha…)

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28 FullTimeFinance July 14, 2017 at 12:00 pm

That’s pretty cool. It just goes to remind there are opportunities to make money all around. You just have to look for them.

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29 Hayes July 14, 2017 at 12:10 pm

How is this a $650k a year business?

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30 Brian Winch July 14, 2017 at 2:25 pm

I have an army of workers that service about 150 properties under contract.

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31 Ms. Raggedly Rich July 14, 2017 at 12:24 pm

This is so cool! Way to go, and good on you : )

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32 Brian Winch July 14, 2017 at 2:27 pm

Thank you. There are still honest ways to make money out there.

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33 Mike Collins July 14, 2017 at 12:45 pm

It always amazes me how many opportunities there are staring us right in the face. How many people walk through a messy parking lot as they go about their day without even giving it a second thought? But here you are making a business out of it. Awesome!

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34 Brian Winch July 14, 2017 at 2:31 pm

Thanks. A lot of people don’t want to clean up after others. But with the proper tools, it’s almost as easy to do as going for a walk!

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35 Mr. Tako July 14, 2017 at 1:20 pm

I always thought it was the store’s janitors that did the cleanup. Very cool that the author was able to turn this into a profitable business!

Now a huge flood of J$ readers are going to jump into this once secret business…making it far more competitive. Hope he can make up the difference in book sales! ;)

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36 J. Money July 14, 2017 at 1:36 pm

Good thing this bog is international! Imagine thousands of people out with brooms and trash cans right now around your town? :)

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37 Brian Winch July 14, 2017 at 2:38 pm

The stores pay into a monthly operating budget from the property management company that provides for maintenance services such as landscaping, snow removal, heating, AC, parking lot maintenance, etc. It’s getting more competitive but most people aren’t interested in a cleaning business. More $ for those of us that do!

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38 Lily @ The Frugal Gene July 14, 2017 at 2:31 pm

This man is living my dream!!! I love trash…but (and I saw this coming) for a 5 ft 100 lb Asian chick..I don’t think it’s my area of work in terms of manual labor and safety. This is heart breaking. I’m not even joking…

Thanks for sharing though! I’ll stick to dumpster diving in my residential woods :(

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39 Brian Winch July 14, 2017 at 2:41 pm

You CAN do this Lily! It’s not difficult with the right tools and you can work early mornings (5am – before day job). I’ve had women work for me in the past.

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40 Mr. Groovy July 14, 2017 at 4:05 pm

I thought you were awesome before I read this comment, Lily. Now you’re even more awesome. Jared is a lucky man.

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41 Ying-NavigatingAdulthood July 14, 2017 at 3:42 pm

Wow, I didn’t realize how lucrative parking lot trash removal was! You get to make major $$ and you get to make a visible impact on a space.

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42 Mr. Groovy July 14, 2017 at 3:57 pm

Brian, you’re my effing hero! I love it. Ever since I was a highway foreman, I loved picking up trash. Something about walking, being alone with your thoughts, and doing something positive for the community. But I never considered monetizing that avocation. Sir, I salute you. Thank you for spreading the word.

P.S. I pick up trash every week on county roads and in county parks. It would be great if that civic spirit could be rewarded with a check. But I doubt the county would appreciate my efforts. It is much more likely to issue a cease and desist order. I’m honing in on its work.

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43 Brian Winch July 14, 2017 at 6:13 pm

We need more citizens like you. Have you heard of Keep America Beautiful (KAB)? They’re the largest non-profit group that attempts to educate the public about the problems litter creates for the environment. They have a lot of community clean ups where you can get involved with other like-minded people. Thanks for your contribution!

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44 J. Money July 17, 2017 at 9:46 am

Brian – you should check out Mr. Groovy’s youtube channel where he shares his thoughts while picking up trash :)

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCk_NRXoX_1IuZtLIcUnjeAQ

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45 PaulM July 14, 2017 at 7:50 pm

I always heard that waste is a terrible thing to mind but you sure proved that saying wrong. Way to go!

I do a lot of walking and take shortcuts through restaurant and bar parking lots. A few times a year I find money. You’re so correct, people pulling out their keys and a bunch of coins and the occasional paper bill falls out. Much luck and kudos for filling that niche!

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46 Brian Winch July 14, 2017 at 10:42 pm

LOL. Thanks Paul.

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47 Leo T. Ly July 15, 2017 at 6:22 am

This really shows that if you work hard and know what you are doing, you can succeed in any business. I will definitely give this side hustle a serious consideration as I need a bit of exercise and I want to get paid to do it

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48 Brian Winch July 17, 2017 at 2:25 pm

I’d be happy to assist you. I provide free support when you buy the book.

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49 BeSmartRich July 16, 2017 at 8:24 am

What a guy! A great side hustle while making solid amount of money!

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50 Brian Winch July 17, 2017 at 2:26 pm

You just need to be willing to do what most others aren’t.

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51 ZJ Thorne July 16, 2017 at 10:55 am

I had no idea this was so lucrative! Does the work get easier over time? I imagine when you are first hired there will be a build-up of trash to pick up, and that once they have you, it is more of a maintenance issue and less of a big chore.

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52 J. Money July 17, 2017 at 9:49 am

I think most companies already keep their parking lots clean, but it’s just someone else is doing it (members of the company, a property management co, etc). Then you’d come in and offer better quality for less money :) (Although if you ever did see tons of trash piled up, that would be the first place I’d pitch so they can see what a difference you could make! haha..)

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53 Brian Winch July 17, 2017 at 2:29 pm

You’re both correct.

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54 Lion July 20, 2017 at 3:53 pm

typically are you doing this early in the morning before the store opens?

How are you billing them? Hourly or set rate.

Do you bill them once a month or weekly or bi weekly?

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55 Brian Winch July 20, 2017 at 6:10 pm

Yes. This service is provided “after hours”. Your contract price is based on your estimated time to service a particular property. You invoice them monthly. All explained in my book, Cleanlots.

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56 JW July 21, 2017 at 11:46 am

A few assumptions but to keep it simple:
650K per year / 150 properties = $4,333 annually per property or $360 per month.
Taking this $360 per month / $35 per hour = 10+ hours per month or about 20 minutes per day.
If utilizing $50 per hour it is under 15 minutes per day.
I am guessing it takes roughly 12 properties to get to $50K gross annually.
As a side job, this would be difficult to tackle alone unless one doesn’t mind being out at 1 am or beginning at 1 am.
This is definitely an intriguing proposition to explore.
I wonder if the real estate management companies would go for an every other day cleanup?
Thanks for sharing and am on the fence about purchasing your book.
$80-$90 is a bit steep for this crowd but I wish you the best of continued success.

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57 Brian Winch July 21, 2017 at 4:22 pm

Some people work 2-3 hours before their day jobs. Properties are mostly serviced daily, Monday-Friday, others less frequently, say M,W,F, and a few 6 or 7 days a week. What you charge varies across the country. Everyone walks a different pace. I’ve been told that I move fast. I hope you find what you’re looking for. All the best!

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