Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from an author who is not in digital marketing or e-commerce; he started a local junk removal business that turned other people’s trash into treasure for him and his partners. What’s interesting about this particular gig is the potential scale it into something much larger by accumulating related skills – digital marketing or building it into a larger services or lead referral business..
How To Start A Junk Removal Business
A junk hauling business may not sound like a very lucrative venture, but for those willing to work and unafraid of getting dirty it’s very possible to make a good living at it. However, not everyone is cut out for this type of work. It’s hard, you will definitely cut yourself more than once, and your body will be exhausted by the time you’re through every day.
If none of that deters you then you may be the type of person who should give it a go. I will warn you, though. There’s more to a good junk hauling business plan than just going around and finding metal things and loading them into the back of a truck. You have to know what to look for and what will make you the most for your labor.
My Surprise Introduction To Junk Hauling
Back to my story, I first started hauling junk about four years ago after losing my job due to downsizing. My friend and I had worked for the same company and were sent home the same day. We headed out to my house to wrack our brains to try and come up with some way to make money for our respective families.
We had been paid earlier that day, as our previous job paid us every week, but we knew that wouldn’t last long. We were both married. He had a daughter and at the time I had two children and another on the way.
Inevitably, we ran out of money after a few weeks. That’s when panic mode set in. We had bills to pay and no source of income. Now, I’ve lived out in the country all of my life and have never been afraid of hard work. But, I knew we had to figure something out that paid well and fast.
Junk hauling came to mind simply because we didn’t have any other options. We thought we could make $100 to $200 per week each if we worked hard enough. The first haul showed us that our initial numbers were way too low.
It took us less than two hours to load down my truck, a small trailer and and my friend’s long-bed with refrigerators, washing machines, dryers, and any other metal objects we could find around my property that were ready to be disposed of.
We drove across the scales at our local scrap yard, unloaded the metal and went to collect what we thought would be a measly $40 or $50. When the clerk handed me the check I thought there had to be some mistake. There was no way that I and one friend had made $200 in just a couple hours work.
After splitting the money we both went to work on social media. We advertised that we would haul scrap metal, tear down tin structures and even take broken or unwanted appliances off for free. We ended up making $900 to $1000 per week. This was plenty for us to split and still pay our bills while we looked for other full time jobs. Yes, we probably could have made more if we had focused solely on hauling junk metal off, but we only wanted to work a few hours a day so we could actively search for full time employment with benefits.
Fine Tuning The Marketing Machine
There are a few things to remember when coming up with your own plan. In my case, what worked was social media and knowing what people in my area needed. Pretty much everyone around my home town needed buildings, brush, and trash cleaned up from their property. So, my friend and I posted on social media that we were willing to haul off scrap metal for free if allowed to keep the metal. We also stated that we would tear down barns, metal structures and buildings for only the metal. Then, we offered a few select customers (the ones we knew had lots of copper, aluminum, and brass on their property) our services for brush, wood, trash and whatever else was lying around they didn’t want in exchange for the higher end scrap items.
The next part was a little more tricky. We had to figure out how to look for full time employment and haul off junk and still make a good living. After a few weeks we found that the people we had worked for started referring their friends and giving us outstanding references on Facebook. Pretty soon we were ready to roll out the next step.
We started small and worked our way up when we started charging for our services. The first thing we rolled out was a flat rate of $30.00 per day plus junk (we discounted a few people here and there that had Copper, Brass, and Aluminum to offer) or $100.00 each for my friend and I if there was plenty of junk and a week’s worth of work. These rates included anything our clients wanted done (Trash moved, fence built, lumber stacked) as long as there was enough junk for us to make a decent wage.
What would I change?
If I could go back, I would start by putting the social media ad up. It helped us more than we could have ever imagined. I would also make sure I never touched tires, signs, steel wire or any of those other things that are a waste of time. I would have invested in some very sturdy and water proof gloves, boots, and long sleeved shirts.
An important thing to remember about the Junk Removal Business
Hauling scrap can make you some money if you work hard at it. However, don’t expect it to be consistent in pricing or in the amount you’re able to haul off. Prices at every scrap yard I’ve ever been to fluctuate pretty often. It’s important to keep an eye on the prices at your local yard and start hauling as much as possible when prices spike.
What To Look For: Copper, Brass, and Aluminum
The three metals I’ve named above are the most lucrative and worthwhile. Copper can go anywhere from $1.00 to $3.00 per pound. Brass ranges from $.75 to $1.00 per pound and Aluminum is generally somewhere around $.30 per pound. These materials can be found in the following ways:
Copper can be found running through most houses, barns, shacks etc that have electricity to them. Pretty much any electrical object will have copper wire supplying the current to them. For example, electric dryers, Tvs and even hair dryers have copper coils inside them. Copper can also be found in compressors, freezers, A/C units and refrigerators.
Brass is a little less common to find than the other two metals above. It can be found in some tools, water mains and some water pumps. It is usually the main component in fittings for natural gas and propane lines as well.
Aluminum is probably the most common of these metals. It can be found in motors of broken down cars, alternators, starters, some electrical lines, soda and beer cans, A/C reefer, residential siding, and some small fishing boats. $.30 per pound may not sound like much, but with enough weight you can get a pretty good haul with just aluminum.
Now it’s time to talk about the things that aren’t worth any amount of your time. The payoff is low for these items and the workload is very high. Most scrapyards won’t even take these next few items even if you manage to clean them up.
Tires contain a small amount of metal beneath the rubber. In order to get to it, you’ll have to burn the outside of the tire. The steel inside each tire will vary from about 1/2 pound to maybe 1 pound. Trust me when I tell you it’s not worth the effort. It will take you several hours to burn, cool and load the metal strands and, after all of that, you may get to the scrap yard and have not only the rims and wire rejected, but also the rest of your load.
Any form of steel wire or cable will more than likely be rejected at most yards. Steel cable is hard to work with and takes forever to clean up. Most yards will turn it away simply because it isn’t worth the labor for them.
Satellite Dishes/Road Signs
I know this may sound like common sense, but road signs, satellite dishes and other property that is licensed or owned by any entity or company will be rejected. It is illegal in most places for road signs to be scrapped by anyone but the organization that put them up (state, city, county etc.) Satellite cable and internet dishes will be rejected because most people only rent or finance the dishes and will return these items to the company that provided them service after it’s cancelled.
Nuts and Bolts
Although scrap yards will not reject nuts, bolts, nails and screws, it’s worth noting that your load will be worth more if you remove the ones that are easy to get to depending on what you’re hauling. If you’re hauling all tin items (appliances, fence posts, etc.) then I wouldn’t advise taking the time to remove these impurities. On the other hand, any aluminum, copper, brass or other precious metals should be cleaned and stripped of all impurities and other types of metal that are mixed in.<
FAQ: Junk Hauling Safety Tips
Metal is hot in the summer and cold in the winter and can cause some pretty nasty burns and other unfortunate mishaps. It’s important to be aware of what you’re handling at all times. The thinner the piece of metal is the hotter it will be in the sun and the faster it will cool down and freeze over. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve burned the tips of my fingers on the top of a hot refrigerator or scalded my palm on a piece of iron fencing.
Even while wearing gloves, make sure you know how sharp an object is before you yank it up from the ground. I speak from experience here. Leather gloves can only provide so much protection and I wouldn’t recommend using any other material.
Why do I recommend leather over other material? Well, leather will keep the many chemicals and down-right nasty liquids from getting to your hands. Kevlar and other tough materials are okay, but just be sure you don’t get too comfortable using them as you could easily get a chemical burn or spill something toxic on yourself.
I wish I had known all of this when I first started out. Not everything used in appliances, tools, and building materials is actually safe. There are a few things that I had never thought about that can cause you harm.
This is probably the most common chemical found in appliances. It’s used in older refrigerators, A.C. units and deep freezes as a cooling agent. Just touching it shouldn’t cause much of a threat, but, if you get it in your eyes or mouth you should drop everything and head to the E.R.
Of course, this is only if you encounter Freon after it’s already been ejected from whatever canister or compressor it was in to begin with. If you run your hand through Freon or just hold whatever you’re emptying it from as it’s coming out of said canister or compressor you may actually get frostbite.
# 2: Stagnated Water
This one is a little more of a what if scenario but, believe me, it could happen. Water falls on everything that’s left outside. There aren’t many times after starting a junk removal business that you’ll find a garage or a barn full of old broken appliances. Most people will chunk their old fridge out the back door after they get a new one. This means most of the junk you haul will be exposed to the outdoors and whatever disgusting thing that wants to rub up all over it probably will.
A water puddle may seem harmless but I can promise you that’s not always the case. After water accumulates on top of a fridge, cooler, or any other appliance, rust will start to form quickly. The moisture will inevitably attract mosquitoes and other pests who bring bacteria and germs into the equation. So, there’s no telling what’s in that water.
Now, no person in their right mind would go drinking water they found on some old junk, but that’s not the only danger. Stagnated water can be treacherous to a junk hauler with open wounds, scrapes, or scratches if the proper precautions aren’t taken. It’s important to make sure all wounds are covered with waterproof bandages before going out on a haul. Also, keep antibiotic ointment close by in case you get a fresh wound. I would recommend taking some rubbing alcohol with you as well just to be sure.
#3: Galvanized Steel
This one is a little more technical but important none the less. Galvanized steel is steel that will appear to have a white, powdery substance on it’s surface. The galvanization process uses chemicals which can be harmful to people. It is pertinent to seek medical attention if Galvanized steel penetrates your skin in any way, shape, or form. Do not put galvanized material near your mouth, eyes or nose or touch your mouth, eyes or nose after touching galvanized metal. Be sure that you sanitize any gloves and wash any clothes that come in contact with the material just to be safe. The metal shouldn’t be able to harm you just from touching it, but It’s better to go ahead and exercise caution when dealing with it.
If you’re going to be starting your own junk hauling business you should probably be ready for more than a few flat tires. There are screws, utility blades, random metal bits and even some high quality plastics that can puncture your tires. If you drive a truck I would strongly advise investing in some 10 ply tires. These are heavy duty tires that make it hard (not impossible) for these things to go through the outer band of tread.
If you don’t invest in ten ply tires it’s a good idea to have plugs, plug tools, and at least a good 12v air pump. This way you won’t have to rely on other people or expensive towing companies to come to your rescue.