The RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts program has worked with businesses, institutions, waste haulers, handling facilities, municipal officials, and industry associations to develop consensus based guidance on contracting for trash, recycling, and food waste hauling services. In 2016, RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts conducted interviews with nine waste haulers and held five stakeholder discussions across the state. These included stakeholder discussions in Worcester (November 8), Springfield (September 15), and Boston (October 27), as well as at the Fall 2016 College & University Forum and the Fall 2016 WasteWise Forum. The information gathered from these interviews was used to develop this guidance.

This tip sheet is intended to provide guidelines for businesses and institutions to help set up contracts for hauling trash, recyclables, and/or organics, effectively manage these services, and adjust contracts. A printable version of this guidance is available here. The guidance is organized into four topic areas that emerged through the stakeholder process:

    • Know Your Waste
    • Create and Adjust Contracts
    • Comply with Waste Disposal Bans and Other Regulations
    • Communicate Effectively

Know Your Waste

Often, businesses do not know exactly what they are throwing away. Before contacting a hauler, take a look at your waste so you know what materials your business discards. Many of the materials may be recyclable. If your business serves food, you may want to consider organics collection (commonly referred to as composting).

    • Look into barrels and dumpsters to get a rough sense of the type and volume of what your business is discarding. Identify any recyclables that are being disposed of in the trash.
    • Conduct a waste assessment to get more detailed data. The Environmental Protection Agency provides instructions for conducting a waste assessment to determine the amount and types of waste your facility generates. You can conduct such an assessment by examining records, doing a walk-through of the facility, or completing a waste sort.
    • Estimate your food waste if your business serves food. The RecyclingWorks Estimation Guide can help determine the quantity of food waste your facility generates.

Create and Adjust Contracts

When creating, modifying, and renewing contracts, knowing what services your hauler offers can ensure that your contract provides the services that match your business needs. Here are some things to discuss when contracting for service with a waste hauler:

■ Creating contracts

    • Service Costs
          • Initial charges, such as capital investment.
          • Hauling and tonnage or flat rate pickup charges, including any increases during the contract period.
          • Surcharges such as container rental, fuel/environmental, container delivery/removal, extra pickups, overflowing containers, waste ban contamination, etc.
    • Pickup Schedule and Frequency
          • Clearly communicate any pickup scheduling restrictions to your hauler
          • Evaluate cost differential between scheduled and on-call services
          • Understand how missed pickups will be recovered and communicated to you. (e.g. car blocking container, holiday schedules, and inclement weather)
          • Ask how materials will be managed for special events or other instances requiring additional service. Will extra bins be provided or will extra pickups be scheduled?
    • Container Sizes and Types
          • Hauler may provide compactors, dumpsters, or carts.
          • “Right size” your collection containers and collection frequency to optimize diversion and service efficiency. Check containers just before they are emptied to assess capacity needs.
          • Clarify who is responsible for cleaning and maintaining collection containers.
          • Work with your hauler to identify any access or safety issues with container placement.
    • Handling Contamination and Rejected Loads
          • If your business does not separate materials into the correct containers, this can cause contamination issues. For instance, if plastic bags are mixed in with food scraps in an organics bin.
          • Ask how the hauler will notify your business if there are contamination issues and when will they reject a load due to contamination.
          • What are the charges and procedure for a rejected load?
          • Make sure the hauler knows the best contact at your business to reach out to if there are contamination issues.
    • Hauler Reporting
          • Reports provide you with data on the volume or weight of materials that your hauler collects.
          • Ask how frequently you will receive reports and what information they will contain.
          • Reports may include recommendations for improving your program. More
            detailed reporting can help you improve program efficiency.
    • Invoicing
          • Request a sample invoice to ensure you understand the structure and layout.
          • Look at each line item to understand what you are paying for.
          • If you do not understand any of the charges, ask your hauler about them.
          • Request unbundled pricing or, if pricing is bundled, request a breakdown in order to compare economic incentives for diversion.
    • Contract Terms
          • Contracts are typically for a three-year term, but you should discuss options with your hauler.
          • Many contracts automatically renew for the full term unless notice is given within the appropriate time frame, so beware of your renewal date.
          • Check to see if there is a cancellation provision that protects you from unsatisfactory performance.
          • Make sure that your contract allows you to add services even if your hauler does not provide these services, such as organics pick-up.

Making adjustments to existing contracts:

    • Service level changes can occur mid-contract as business needs change.
    • Adjustments can include diverting new materials, changing sizes of containers, and changing pickup schedules.
    • Know what services your hauler can provide and how you can make changes during the contract term.


    • If you request a service that your hauler doesn’t provide, the hauler may choose to subcontract for that service, or they may ask you to seek alternate options on your own. This is particularly relevant for materials such as organics, electronics, or hazardous waste
          • The advantage to sub-contracting is you only have one waste hauling contract to manage. However, it is important to ensure that your hauler communicates effectively with the subcontractor on any service concerns.
          • Working with a subcontractor through your primary hauler may cost less than working directly with the subcontractor, if your hauler has a bulk rate for their services.
          • In other cases, subcontracting may come at a cost premium, but it provides ease for you as the customer compared with managing two separate contracts.
    • If a service is subcontracted, communication will likely be between you and the primary hauler, rather than directly with the subcontractor. See communication section below for expectations.

Comply with Waste Disposal Bans and Other Regulations

Many businesses are not aware that there are a number of materials that are banned from disposal in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) bans easy-to-recycle materials (like cardboard) and toxic materials (like lead acid batteries) from disposal. Your municipality might have additional bylaws/ordinances or regulations requiring businesses to recycle.

Your business, your waste hauler, and disposal sites are all responsible for properly handling waste according to local, state, and federal regulations. This includes national, third-party subcontractors and/or waste brokers you may work with. It is important to be aware of the waste bans and regulations, and properly separate materials to comply with these bans.

■ Current waste ban materials include:

    • Recyclable Paper and Cardboard
    • Glass/Aluminum/Metal/Plastic Containers
    • Leaves and Yard Waste
    • Cathode Ray Tubes (TVs and Computer Monitors)
    • White Goods (Major Appliances)
    • Some Construction & Demolition Materials (including Asphalt Pavement, Brick, Concrete, Wood, Metal, and Clean Gypsum Wallboard)
    • Tires
    • Lead Acid Batteries
    • Commercial Organics: (Only applies to businesses and institutions that dispose of one ton or more of food material per week.)

■ Additional resources for information on regulations and ordinances:

Communicate Effectively

Just having a recycling program in place does not ensure people will participate. Ask your waste hauler how they plan to handle your trash, recycling, and organics. Understanding where materials go and how they are processed has been proven to help increase participation in programs to separate recyclables and food scraps, and decrease contamination.

Regular communication with a waste hauler leads to more effective waste management services and higher diversion rates of recyclable and organic materials. Ensuring that your hauler has the most up to date contact information on record is essential for communicating and resolving contamination issues. Similarly, you should have current contact information for your hauler. After discussing hauling options and waste materials, continue to manage and evaluate the program, and revisit contract agreements as necessary.

Problems in a waste management program can be identified by staff, drivers, and/or management teams. Therefore, building a relationship and ensuring regular communication between your business and your hauler is a key to working together effectively. When expectations and service needs are agreed upon, the trash, recycling, and organics can be handled properly and efficiently.

The following strategies can help support effective communication:

  • Signage, Containers, and Training
      • Request signs to label trash, recycling, and organics collection containers that reflect the specific needs and waste materials at your facility.
      • Clearly designate containers by shape, color, and lid opening configuration to optimize diversion.
      • Ask your hauler what materials are accepted in the waste, recycling, and organics containers
      • Make sure you are consistently sorting materials correctly.
      • Regular training for staff is key to an effective program.
          • Consider establishing a team in your organization to check bins and containers. This team may also be responsible for training new staff members on recycling and sorting initiatives
      • Regular Reporting on Tonnage and Service Levels
          • Ask your hauler how and when reporting will occur, and what information they will report to you.
          • If dumpster or cart weights are estimated rather than measured, these estimates should be checked periodically as your waste stream may change over time.
          • You and your hauler should jointly monitor and communicate about fullness of dumpsters, compactors, and carts, and make service adjustments if necessary.
              • Haulers may document overage services of overflowing containers with pictures. Ask for a copy of the picture and assess the need to increase services or the potential to divert materials from that container.
  • Feedback on Contamination
          • Ask your hauler to routinely inspect containers to identify contamination and provide feedback quickly.
          • Make sure your hauler knows the best contact at your business to receive and respond to feedback on contamination and service levels. Contamination is best clarified with photos.
          • If you have an interest in learning about disposal and recycling facilities, ask your hauler to schedule a tour.
  • Reduce contamination
          • Consider locking container doors to limit unauthorized access
          • Regularly check for contamination and re-train staff
          • Respond to feedback quickly to prevent rejected loads
  • Consider Resource Management (RM) Contracting
          • RM Contracting is a performance based contracting approach designed to reduce waste and increase diversion through dedicated customer service, detailed reporting, and program analysis.
          • MassDEP has a Sample Resource Management Contract
  • Request RecyclingWorks Assistance
          • If your business would like help improving your recycling program, use RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts as a resource.
          • RecyclingWorks can work with businesses and haulers to implement a program, including training, signage, and explanation of the waste bans.
          • To request assistance, call the RecyclingWorks hotline at 888-254-5525 or email

If you have any questions or feedback, please contact RecyclingWorks
at 888-254-5525 or email

Page last modified July 17, 2019