3 questions with Trash Warrior, the B2B hauling platform used by big brands like Amazon and Instacart

As Trash Warrior seeks to grow its customer base across the US, its competition isn’t the solid waste industry’s biggest names — it’s the likes of Craigslist, Yelp and TaskRabbit.

Trash Warrior offers a B2B marketplace connecting customers like Amazon and Instacart with local waste removal businesses, and, more recently, final disposal or transformation sites too. The San Francisco-based startup, founded in 2019, shared this month that it raised $8 million earlier this year. The pre-Series A round was led by AltalR Capital.

Founder and CEO Lily Shen said in an interview with Waste Dive this past week that waste has still been a “blue ocean opportunity” for startups; while some investors may not see the innovation opportunities in trash removal, the relatively few competitors make it an attractive industry.

Shen explained that while large companies with warehouses, for instance, may receive routine trash pickups from major haulers, the nature of their work generates extra packaging or product waste on an unpredictable schedule that requires additional removal requests. Trash Warrior aims to provide structure to those ad hoc needs.

The company is now capable of fulfilling service “in every zip code in the United States,” Shen said, and is deepening its market knowledge in its heaviest areas, including on the West Coast and in populous states like NNew York, Texas and Illinois.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

WASTE DIVE: Which needs does Trash Warrior serve today?

LILY SHEN: We are now primarily focused on B2B waste management to try to be the one stop shop for B2B customers with frequent waste management needs.

Founder and CEO Lily Shen

Permission granted by Trash Warrior

The current solutions we’re seeing across the board for Amazon, etc., is that for multi-location businesses that need to use [waste management]usually the solution involves getting into one or a few vendors for each location, and cycling through them with a very high churn rate.

For example, for Amazon warehouses that do fulfillment and delivery for your online Amazon Prime orders — almost all of them that we know of and we have served in, essentially 50% of the waste needs are done ad hoc by posting on Craigslist instead of a more formal channel. So that’s a big headache for warehouse managers, a big headache for the providers as well, in terms of how unstable the relationships are. And basically – reliability, accountability, sustainability, transparency – all of these figures that people would care about for waste management, they’re not there for those kinds of services. We’re trying to make it happen with no problems.

What are some things you do differently from traditional waste hauling services to serve these types of businesses?

Really the core of the business is a tech-enabled platform where the haulers do the following: one is they claim the tasks from the platform. The tasks on the platform have very detailed specs on what’s expected, including where the items need to be dropped off. And they essentially are not able to get paid until the service is done and everything has followed instructions.

So when a service is completed they have to [complete a task flow] where they upload before and after pictures, dumping receipts, dumping amount, the destination of dumping — and everything needs to match up with the instructions in order for them to get paid. The other problem we’re seeing with the Craigslist model is there’s no accountability on both sides. There’s no accountability from the customer, there’s no accountability from the provider … There’s no penalty [if Amazon canceled]vice versa there’s no penalty for [a hauler] to not show up at the door of Amazon on time. Because it’s just transactional.

But when you have a platform where there are so many providers counting on the platform to generate a sustainable amount of income for their growing small business, the behavior change is large. So you can implement [a quite detailed set of minimum expectations] of performance of services. Some of that can be centered around sustainability or accountability.

So for example, being late for an hour is a penalty item on our platform. Not communicating beforehand about your ETA is another one. Illegal dumping is essentially an immediate ban … So that solves a lot of problems, because indeed one of the biggest complaints or concerns of both customers and [law enforcement or environmental regulators] of the local governments are illegal dumping from those Craigslist kind of connections.

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