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Are you a property manager with trash pick-up needs? Did your garbage vendor fall through? Are you moving to a new place and wound up with a lot of junk to dump? Did you just throw a huge party and spent days filling trash bags?

Or, are you looking to contribute to the effort to clean up Philadelphia and earn some cash while you’re at it?

Download the Trashmitter app for iPhone and Android, and see how easy it is to have garbage picked up and disposed of responsibly, or join the gig economy and become a Sweeper!


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Solutions for Philly's trash problem

Rally your neighbors and beautify your block! The Citizen talked with @YaFavTrashman to bring you this How-To Guide on organizing your own street cleanup.

If you and your neighbors want to see your block cleaned up, sign up for Glitter’s service here.

Check out CleanPHL’s zero waste guide and the Recycling Resource Finder to learn how to dispose of other types of waste—like cooking oil, electronics, and scrap wood—responsibly.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania developed technology to make the city’s cameras better able to catch illegal dumping. The pandemic put adopting that technology on hold. Read the paper on the program here. If you want the city to pick up where it left off, reach out to your representatives on the city council.

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Business for Good: Trashmitter

A former Philadelphia firefighter has created an app that’s Uber for trash disposal to help landlords and small businesses keep the city clean. Now he’s ready to grow it big

Business for Good: Trashmitter

A former Philadelphia firefighter has created an app that’s Uber for trash disposal to help landlords and small businesses keep the city clean. Now he’s ready to grow it big

When Jason Centeno first got into the hospitality business after 23 years as a Philadelphia firefighter, he anticipated headaches — but not stemming from waste management. As the manager of 25 Airbnb units in the city, however, he quickly stumbled into trash problems. He often found his properties generating lots of garbage bags at inconvenient times. Without a dumpster or backyard to store them in until trash day, those bags were pest-attracting, litter-generating eyesores.

At first, he would pay locals to haul trash away from his units as needed, but this piecemeal approach proved unreliable. Centeno realized he was going to need a more systematic solution. And then he realized that he must not be the only Philadelphia business owner or resident struggling with these same issues.

He started brainstorming, sought out some expert advice, and before long had come up with an idea for an app: “think Uber but for trash disposal.” The Uber metaphor, while useful, doesn’t quite capture the app’s essence, which has more to do with logistics than disposal. Centeno calls it “Trashmitter,” and he markets it as “a Plan B for if you need your trash gone faster than your municipality can provide.”

But it’s not just a municipal service vacuum he’s filling: Existing junk hauling companies tend to be unreliable when it comes to smaller jobs, like those in the two-to-10-bag range that Trashmitter specializes in.

Trashmitter’s target consumers are, in addition to property managers like him, renters moving in or out of apartments, homeowners who’ve just thrown a big holiday party, or Philadelphians with physical disabilities or limited mobility. Anyone with excess garbage bags who doesn’t want to wait until trash day to get rid of them can download the Trashmitter app, which will connect them with a hauler employed by the company. Also, if you encounter an illegal dumpsite with bags of construction materials or household garbage, Trashmitter can take care of that, so long as it’s in an accessible location.

Centeno calls it “Trashmitter,” and he markets it as “a Plan B for if you need your trash gone faster than your municipality can provide.”

Trashmitter charges $9 per bag (electronically, through the app) with a two-bag minimum and 10-bag maximum. On occasion, they make an exception for higher bag counts or orders involving larger items, such as mattresses. For these bigger jobs, the company overnights a 3-cubic-meter dumpster bag to the customer, have the customer fill it, and have it removed once it’s ready.

For now, the company only services Philadelphia County, but Centeno is hoping to expand to the surrounding region in the near future. Doing so will require bringing on more employees, as right now Centeno’s brother is his main sweeper, with a few others chipping in sporadically, and his sister poised to come on board in the coming months.

Trashmitter to the rescue

In January 2021, Centeno pitched his idea to Jared Yellin, founder and CEO of Miami-based Project 10k, which bills itself as a “tech ecosystem” that provides resources to startups in the earliest stages of development. Yellin was impressed by the market potential of Centeno’s idea, and agreed to provide support for the project — everything from product management to engineering to legal bookkeeping.

To build a profitable business, Centeno has been trying to partner with reputable, licensed junk haulers (such as 1-800-Got-Junk? and Junkluggers) who mostly do bigger jobs. The idea is for his employees to pick up a few bags, connect with a hauler who has a bigger load to drop, and have them take the bags for a slice of the profits. To be absolutely sure his hauling partners dispose of trash responsibly, Centeno plans to track all third-party disposals involving Trashmitter bags.

Centeno incorporated the company in March of 2021 and quickly raised over $100,000 of startup funding to develop the pilot version of the app, which went live in August of that year. In September 2021, Trashmitter served its first client. Since then, Centeno says, they’ve hauled away over 2,860 bags of trash, and grossed around $25,000 in revenue. That’s not much money, Centeno concedes, at least not yet — but it’s around $800 per client per year, and with all the company infrastructure now in place, his main focus is on growing his clientele.

So far, Trashmitter has mostly served short-term rental properties, property managers, and cleaning companies. Melissa Simmons, of Property Management International Greater Philadelphia, says Trashmitter has been a saving grace.

“We had a trash emergency where a triplex I manage had contracted for weekly trash pickup and that vendor pretty much disappeared on us,” says Simmons. “We switched to a new company, but they needed a week or so to get us scheduled. Meanwhile, the trash was really building up. Trashmitter came to our rescue and had someone out within a few hours.” In addition to this client base, Centeno soon plans to start soliciting transactions from other small businesses around the city who might face similar trash woes, like neighborhood bodegas.

“It’s the ultimate, ever-evolving puzzle to solve,” Centeno said of small-scale supplemental trash disposal, “and I love puzzles.”

The company is still troubleshooting garbage disposal methods. Sometimes it’s difficult to organize bag handoffs with local junk haulers, and in those cases, Centeno will have his employees drop trash off at public sanitation centers. On occasion, his drivers have even flagged down City sanitation trucks and persuaded them to take bags off their hands.

If all else fails, Centeno just purchased his first company vehicle — a commercial-sized box truck, painted black, with the Trashmitter slogan in big green letters down the side: “Every Day Is Trash Day.” The truck serves as a mobile billboard and an emergency fix. If employees, for whatever reason, pick up bags that they can’t dispose of, they can load them into the truck for temporary storage.

Complementing other tech trash solutions

Having spent more than two decades with the Philadelphia Fire Department, Centeno is all but resolved not to go looking for assistance, financial or otherwise, from City Hall. Help from municipal agencies, he says, all too often comes only with strings attached — if, that is, you even manage to convince them you’re a worthy collaborator. One former City Councilmember now running for Mayor Centeno says, indicated “that the City is going to come up with the only acceptable solution” to its trash woes, a sentiment with which he vehemently disagrees, given our decades-old reputation as “Filthadelphia.”

And recent history supports Centeno’s instinct that the City might not be receptive to supporting companies like his: Morgan Berman’s Glitter, for example, got money set aside for it in the FY2020 budget, only for the money to never materialize, with the City later saying it couldn’t fund an unproven pilot. That said, if the City were to approach Centeno and offer him an attractive contract — say, to pick up bags that slip through the cracks of normal garbage collection — he would of course jump on it.

Speaking of Glitter, it bears mentioning that the two companies, while both trash-themed tech startups, offer totally distinct services. Glitter’s employees pick up litter along streets for a monthly fee typically paid by residents of the block. They then leave the litter in bags for the City to collect. Trashmitter, on the other hand, is exclusively a bag collection service. The companies complement, rather than compete with, each other. Centeno says he even tried to partner with Berman, offering to have his employees haul away the bags that her employees leave behind. For now, however, the two have yet to team up.

In the short term, Centeno is focused on building a network and a customer base in Philadelphia in order to establish Trashmitter as a major player in the City’s waste management ecosystem. Long term, however, he has bigger ambitions.

“I think if I can help really make a lasting difference in Philadelphia and fix the problem there, then I can probably crack the problem almost anywhere else, at least in America,” he says. He’d even consider taking the company international, and won third place in an international business competition when he presented that sweeping vision.

“It’s the ultimate, ever-evolving puzzle to solve,” Centeno said of small-scale supplemental trash disposal, “and I love puzzles.”


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