For those of you who mow commercial properties, how do you handle trash cleanup? There’s most likely at least a small amount of debris that you need to clear before mowing, and for one LawnSite.com member, he found it was taking too much of his time. Find out what community members shared to help make this task a little easier on him.

Question:

Curtis Avery: Does anyone have a faster solution for trash? I have a few commercial lawns that I cut, and the trash pickup is taking me way too long. It’s not the big pieces of trash; its small pieces that I don’t see until it’s too late. It takes me 20 minutes to cut the lot and another one hour cleaning up. There has to be a better solution.

Answers:

scagman52: Have you thought about bagging?

WenzelOSLLC: A 5-gallon bucket on a mower and one of those extended-reach claw grabbers.

Curtis Avery: I have a grabber and a bucket that work great. I had considered a bagger, but the cost verses the amount of lawns that I would need it for just wasn’t practical. It’s the cigarette butts and the trash from the parking lots that really cause the issue. Maybe I’ll revisit the bagger option and use it during the winter months for bagging leaves. Thanks for the suggestions.

gebby: Mostly, I cut commercial lawns. Trash is always a problem. My first account was a truck stop. Never, ever do a truck stop. Moving forward:

1. Price accordingly. We all start somewhere. Next year you will have a better understanding.

2. Every mower I have had for the last 20 years has had a bagger, and I use them every time.

3. If you continue to bend over hundreds of times picking up trash, your wife will fall in love with you all over again. You will be 20 pounds lighter, and you will need new pants or at least a smaller belt. There will be no need for a membership to the sports club.

4. Depending on your needs, as you go pick up the big stuff, bag the small. Talk to your customers; you and they need to have real expectations. Getting every cigarette butt, every piece of paper is unrealistic. My goal is to get the big stuff and 98 percent of the small stuff. I still talk to my customers to remind them that they also need to take ownership of the parking lot so it does not make it to the lawn. They can pay their employees at a lower rate or they can pay me the higher rate. In the past I had accounts that had three bags of trash a week; now it is way below one bag a week. I’ve tried every way possible. Bag, talk to your customers, price accordingly.

Curtis Avery: Thanks. I’ll definitely keep those suggestions in mind. I had no clue there would be that much trash each time I showed up to cut. Live and learn! Sounds like the bag is the way to go.

easy-lift guy: Most commercial properties are under bid, and the collection of trash, if part of the bid, is rarely taken into consideration. Do the best you can with some of the suggestions already given and when time to rebid, bid accordingly so you have the funds and time to pick up all of the debris and trash. If the customer balks at the price, ask yourself, “Do I really want to waste my time and effort all over again for less money or leave it for some other company?” The rest will be up to you.

herler: Backpack blower, tarp, rake, dumpster. Pick it up just like a bunch of leaves; don’t play around picking that stuff up by hand.

StanWilhite: Taking more time to pick up trash before mowing pays off big time. As others have said, I also use a grabber and a bucket. I idle around with the deck off picking up the trash before turning the deck on. Not only does this prevent having to pick 30 pieces up instead of one, the time you do take is running the engine at an idle without the deck on, which is less wear and tear on the engine/deck and also uses less gas.

It’s the old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

weeze: The small stuff I never touch it. I just mow right over it and keep on going. The larger stuff I grab or blow it out of the way. Most times it all cleans itself up over time. It will rain and such and wash it all away, or the wind will blow a lot of it away as well as traffic flying down the road.

Are you a lawn man or a garbage man? Or both?

If you pick it up, charge extra for it. Don’t do it for free.

clydebusa: I agree with this. I pick up big stuff and mow over little stuff. It is easier to go over a few times than pick them up. I also make sure the contract supports this. Most commercial places have lot porters or attendants that are supposed to clean the trash. For two of my accounts I send them a text a few hours before so they can do clean up.

StanWilhite: Hey weeze, I’ve got to respectfully disagree. Using your logic:

1. You couldn’t gas your mower up because you aren’t a gas station attendant.

2. You couldn’t sharpen blades because you aren’t a machinist.

3. You couldn’t wash your mower because you don’t work at a car wash.

4. You couldn’t work on your mower because you’re not a mechanic.

5. You couldn’t send out bills because you’re not a collection agency.

And so on …

Picking up trash before/after (preferably before in my opinion) mowing is just part of the job.

weeze: Oh come on, you know what I mean.

I pick up something if it’s big like a plastic bag, a plastic cup or other things that size. Anything small like a candy wrapper, cigarette butt, etc., I don’t touch.

Sometimes I’ll use the mower to blow the trash out of the way and then keep mowing and just leave the trash there where it was before I started.

Really the only places I have trouble with trash are commercial properties by the highway. You leave it and it’s gone in an hour or so anyways from the wind or from cars flying down the road blowing it around. It kind of takes care of itself if you let it be.

There’s no need to spend 30 minutes picking up trash unless that is part of the agreement and you are getting paid for it.

There are many times I’ll be mowing and there will be bottles and such in the ditch. I just run over them and the blades take care of them for me.

Curtis Avery: I agree that trash is part of the job; it’s just more trash than what I had anticipated. We pick up the trash before we start cutting. It’s the small trash from the parking lot and the small trash that’s embedded in the grass that’s taking all of my time; the massive amounts of cigarette butts, too. I think I will have to raise my fee or possibly stop cutting it after the season.

StanWilhite: It’s really easy to under-estimate the amount of time and labor involved in doing things like that.

It’s easy to think, “No big deal, I can pick that stuff up in no time,” only to realize it’s a much bigger chore than you initially thought it would be when you have to do it every single time you’re there. The minutes add up over time.

Charles: I don’t pick up cigarette butts. I just mow over them. Your smoking and litter habit is not going to be my problem. I do pick up the rest of the trash.

gcbailey: I learned a long time ago what happens if you mow over a Kleenex or napkin. Ugh! You can never clean those up once you mow over one.

Like others have said, a 5-gallon bucket and a grabber. Just get a grabber that’s long enough so that when you pull up next to a small potato chip bag the vacuum from the deck doesn’t suck it under.