When Trash Becomes Profit

A Nordic take on the trash business in the United States

Melissa Frost
3 min readMar 1, 2022


Photo by James Day on Unsplash

“Which day does the garbage truck come around here?” I asked one of my new neighbors right after we had moved into our new neighborhood.

I was told it depends on which company you decide to use. That there were a handful of companies serving the area, competing over the trash, all trying to give their customers the best deal.

American competition

My response was that this approach seemed a little unnecessary. Having large garbage trucks in and out of the neighborhood several times each week. There’s no way that’s good for the environment or the climate. The area isn’t even that big.

Doesn’t it make sense to get one company to serve the whole neighborhood?

One neighbor completely agreed, saying not only do these trucks use a significant amount of fuel, but he also pointed out the safety issue, having large trucks in an area filled with kids biking, playing on the sidewalks and from time to time running out to grab the football that ended up in the street.

The other neighbor welcomed the trucks. He said it’s really just how America works. Healthy competition and capitalism. One company having a monopoly on trash in our area would be wrong, and it would be too easy for corruption to sneak in.

So trash really is big profit around here, I thought to myself. Also, I’m in a politically polarized area, as even trash becomes not only profit but political.

I grew up having one county-run company taking care of trash in my neighborhood. It was not a private company, rather one funded through our tax money.

So the idea of having several garbage and recycling companies to choose between was very new to me. The idea of having people compete over my trash just sounded ridiculous to me. I was always happy with how my trash and recycling were taken care of in Norway, so I never question the process.

Perhaps I was naive.

Billion-dollar business

American waste is big money.



Melissa Frost

Journalist. Mom. Wife. Norwegian in the U.S. Minimalist-ish.