Free Bulky Waste Collection Guide
Free Bulky waste collection: the ultimate guide
Are you looking for free bulky waste collection? Then this guide is for you! This blog post covers everything you need to know about how to get rid of bulky waste for free and the other lowest cost alternatives including, how much they cost, what types of waste they are best for, and how environmentally friendly they are.
Definition of Bulky Waste
Before we start, what sort of rubbish are we talking about? Bulky waste is any waste you cannot fit in the bin. It includes clean bulky junk like furniture, large appliances, cardboard boxes and packaging and messy, dirty rubbish like home improvement, builders & DIY waste, and garden refuse. You can read a more detailed definition of bulky waste here.
The 9 types of Bulky Waste Collection
There are nine types of bulky waste collection. Numbers 1- 5 cost money, whereas 6-9 are free solutions.
1) Council bulky waste collection service (typically not available for builder/DIY or office/commercial waste)
2) Man & Van waste collection contractor (loading and sweep up included)
3) Skip hire (labour not provided - you do the loading)
4) Hippo bag (labour not provided - you do the loading)
5) Grabber lorry (only relevant for large multi-truckloads of waste)
6) Free Scrap metal collector (like man & van, but only for metal)
7) Possibly Free House Clearance or Office Clearance company (only relevant if the majority of items can be reused)
8) Free Charity collection (only relevant if items are in good condition and can be reused)
9) Free Donation to an individual (only relevant if items are in good condition and can be reused)
Let's look at each solution in a bit more depth. But before we do, please note that this article generally discusses bulky waste collection. Therefore, if you only have one specific type of waste to get rid of (e.g. mattress, sofa, paint), we recommend scrolling to the end of this article to see if one of our more detailed collection guides is more appropriate.
1) Council bulky waste collection service
Almost every council offers their residents (but not local businesses or tradespeople) a collection service from the home to dispose of unwanted household items that are too big for the regular bin. This service sits alongside the standard weekly or fortnightly domestic refuse collection service. It is chargeable and needs to be booked.
Although it is not a free bulky waste collection solution, it is usually relatively cheap. The average price charged to remove a single item of furniture is around £30. That said, the council service is quite basic. In particular, most councils:
- only collect buly waste from outside the property;
- limit their service to a maximum number of waste items;
- exclude messy, builder/ DIY style waste like bricks, rubble, soil and plasterboard; and
- have very slow response times - expect to wait between 1 and 4 weeks to book in your collection
For more detail on your council service, visit your local council's website. If you'd like to see how your council compares to others across the country, read our review of council bulky waste collection prices in England. And, for those of you who live in London, we also have a deep dive into London council bulky waste collection services.
2) Man & Van waste collection contractor
Using a man and van waste contractor (sometimes called a waste carrier) is the second most popular way to collect bulky waste. Similar to the council service, man and van waste contractors come to the property, load up your bulky waste and take it away for disposal. The main advantages in using a private contractor rather than the council for bulky waste collection are:
- Faster speed - You won't need to wait weeks. In fact, it's normally pretty easy to arrange a collection on the same day as your request.
- Narrow arrival window - In contrast to your council service, which is often "your collection is booked for next Tuesday, and please ensure all items are outside the property by 07:30". If you use a private contractor, you can specify a specific collection time. This is very helpful if you live in a property with limited outside space or need to be on-site when the collection team arrives (e.g., specify which items are to go and which are to stay).
- Remove all types of waste - Private contractors will take clean and messy waste (i.e. builder's rubbish, garden refuse). In contrast, most council services are limited to clean, household items like furniture and appliances.
- Collect from anywhere on the property -There is no need to place the junk outside your property before collection. Their teams can clear it from anywhere on the property, including taking it through your house from the garden. Many teams carry dustsheets to protect your carpet for this very reason. But remember to check the collector you use has proper insurance and ID (note: all LoveJunk approved collectors are insured and ID-verified.)
- Businesses and tradespeople can use it too - Unlike the council service, which is only available to residents; private contractors will work for anyone.
How much does a man & van collection cost?
The cost of a man and van collection using a private waste contractor depends on:
- The type of bulky waste you have - heavier tends to cost more
- Quantity of bulky waste you have - more volume, higher price
- Ease of loading and access to the bulky waste - outside is cheaper
- How soon do you need a bulky waste collection - urgent or not
- Time of day/flexibility on when exactly it can be collected
Check out our price gallery to see loads of man & van collection jobs to understand how prices vary. For a deeper understanding of what drives costs, read our Price Guidance, which also links to detailed price guidance for different types of bulky waste, with photos and commentary
3) Skip hire
Another popular option (but certainly not a free bulky waste collection solution!) is hiring a skip. You order the skip, and it gets delivered a few days later. Then, you fill it up with your rubbish, contact the skip company, and collect it.
Skips work well when you want a big container to store all your rubbish while you carry out some reasonably major home improvement work over a more extended period. They are suitable for dirty, messy waste like soil, bricks, rubble or tiles because they keep it all in one place.
On the downside, hiring a skip is VERY expensive. Depending on where you live, and the type of waste you are disposing of, hiring a skip is likely to cost 50% - 150% more than using a man & van waste contractor to remove it. This is partly because the skip vehicle comes to your site twice - once to drop it off and once to pick it up. It also means it has a higher logistical cost than a man & van that only comes once, loads up and leaves.
In addition to the basic skip hire price, if you don't have a driveway or someplace off-road to put the skip, you will likely also need a skip hire permit from the local council (created by councils to stop skips from being left in the road forever!). Plus, if your road is a controlled parking zone, you will also have to pay extra for a bay suspension. In parts of London, the combined cost of a skip permit and CPZ suspension can exceed £200 per day!
Skips come in various sizes. The sizes tend to be described by skip companies in terms of their volume in cubic yards (~ cubic metres but a little smaller!). The main sizes are 4 cubic yards, 6 cubic yards, 8 cubic yards and 12 cubic yards. The most popular is the six cubic yard skip, sometimes referred to as a builders skip because builders use it so frequently. A six-yard skip takes up a space about the size of a small car and can hold about one small van load of rubbish. Prices vary, but expect to pay £250 - £300 inc VAT to hire a skip for a week or so as a rough guide. This cost is before any skip permit and CPZ suspension fees.
Wait & load service for skips
Most skip companies offer a 'wait & load' service. This is when a skip is delivered, and the skip lorry driver waits while you load it up then leaves immediately. It's sort of like a man & van collection in the sense the vehicle only comes once. But the major differences are that the lorry driver does not load the waste or provide any sort of labour. And the cost of the skip is fixed, regardless of how much you fill it.
In practice, wait & load skips are almost exclusively used by builder contractors and fit-out businesses. They use them at locations where placing a skip for any length of time is virtually impossible (e.g. red routes) or when a large amount of waste needs to be removed a very short period of time. The contractor has a team of people on site who load up the skip in a few minutes. It is then taken away to be replaced by yet another empty skip a few minutes later. Like grabber lorries discussed later, wait & load is included more for completeness than relevance in this article because it is only used by 'professionals'. That said, when your builder starts drowning you in jargon, it's always nice to have a bit of insider knowledge 🙂.
Waste types prohibited in skips
Unlike man & van waste collections, which tend to allow all types of waste except very hazardous, most skip companies DO NOT allow the following types of bulky waste: mattress; fridge; electrical appliance; domestic refuse; plasterboard; paint.
4) Hippo bag or skip bag
A Hippobag (sometimes called a skip bag) is a strong, bulky plastic bag that is used as a small skip. You fill it up with your bulky waste, then pay someone to collect it. Hippo bags are well suited to loose, dirty, heavy waste because they help contain it all in one place without the rubbish falling out onto your drive, garden or carpet.
Hippo bags come in three sizes: 1 cubic yard, 1.5 cubic yards, and 4 cubic yards. In addition, you can buy empty bags from most major DIY chains and builders' merchants.
Price of a hippo bag
Once filled, a Hippo bag can be collected by Hippowaste (the company that makes the bag) or any private waste contractor. Hippo waste charges £145, £175 and £245 (including VAT) to collect their three bag sizes. However, they only collect if the bag is placed within easy reach of the road because they use a hoist to lift the bag and limit what you can put in a Hippo bag.
Uisng a waste collector to empty it
A cheaper alternative is to pay a licensed man & van waste collector to collect your hippo bag. Unlike Hippowaste, they can remove the bag from anywhere on the property, and you can also ask them to leave the emptied bag behind so you can reuse it next time. The cost of the collection depends on the size of the bag, type of waste, urgency, time/day of collection, and location. For priced photo examples visit prices for Hippo bag collection.
5) Grabber lorry collection
You should use a grabber lorry collection only for very large bulky waste jobs. An example would be fly-tipped waste filling a car park or removal of waste after the demolition of an entire house. It's a bit like the old amusement arcade games where you try to control a digger to select your cuddly toy. The grabber lorry has a big mechanical arm that scoops up loose waste from the ground and empties it into the back of the lorry. Then, when the lorry is full, the driver takes it away to empty it at the disposal facility.
Grabber lorry prices
Rates are typically by the lorry and include a minimum tonnage. Once that tonnage is exceeded (e.g. 2 tonnes), the extra weight is charged at a rate per tonne. So, for example, it's £250 for the lorry, the grabber and first 2 tonnes, plus £150 per tonne for every tonne over.
We included grabber lorry collection in this article more for the sake of completeness, rather than as something that a householder would use directly. This is because providers of grabber lorries, a bit like providers of scaffolding services, tend to work best with very experienced tradespeople, contractors and builders. But if you are ever involved in a job where someone is quoting you multiple man & van truckloads, it's always worth asking the question. Would a grabber lorry be an excellent alternative to this situation? They typically work out a lot cheaper for large scale jobs.
6) Scrap metal collectors
Using a scrap metal business to remove junk is a brilliant way to arrange a free bulky waste collection. Scrap metal collectors are waste collectors who specialise in removing metal waste. Because metal has value, their business model is about collecting for free (please note: in some circumstances they actually pay to collect) rather than charging customers for the collection.
Therefore, if you have bulky waste that is metal, you should be able to get a free collection by a scrap metal collector and may even get paid for it (especially if you have large amounts or lots of copper or brass). On the other hand, scrap merchants are only interested in metal. So, don't expect them to want to take your more general waste at the same time! This will need to be collected through another route.
Top tip! If they are happy to offer a free bulky waste collection for all of your rubbish, then you've probably got some real value in the metal part of it. Copper storage tanks for example can be worth more than £100.
Popular scrap metal household items
The most popular scrap metal items coming out of homes are large domestic appliances. For example washing machines, dishwasher, cooker, and microwaves. Other types of household metal include copper and brass piping and taps, aluminium furniture, lead flushing from roof and gutters, cutlery, metal ladders, metal wheelbarrows, tin cans (including empty paint tins), metal fencing, boilers, copper hot water cylinders, radiators, hot water rails, tanks, and steel baths. Light iron (technically called ferrous) items attract the least value. Copper, brass and aluminium offer more.
How to find a scrap metal collector
You can Google scrap collector and see what turns up. It will take time, but you may receive payment for your metal. Or you can list your metal separately from your other waste on LoveJunk (and include the word 'Metal' in the title of your LoveJunk listing) to ensure that licensed scrap collectors on LoveJunk are alerted of your job. This is likely to result in lots of offers to collect your metal very cheaply and very fast!
No Cash and Must be Licensed
The law changed a few years back to clamp down on illegal operators, such that scrap metal collectors are no longer permitted to pay people cash. If any payment occurs to the person disposing of metal, the payment must be via bank transfer. So if a collector offers you cash for payment, it's illegal, and you should not do business with them. Equally, just like a general man & van waste collector, scrap metal collectors must have a waste carrier license issued by the Environment Agency. So always ask for their license number and check it on the EA site. Please note, we check all collectors operating on the LoveJunk market are properly licensed and insured to remove waste.
7) House Clearance or Office Clearance company
House clearance and office clearance companies offer another potential free bulky waste collection method. Like scrap metal collectors, house and office clearance businesses focus primarily on the resale value of the items they clear - rather than making money for the collection and disposal service itself. They are only really interested in jobs that mainly involve stuff that can be resold, rather than rubbish. Equally, they don't like single or just a few items. They like large multiple van load type jobs.
Lastly, they will always want to come to the property to review all of the items to be cleared to assess how saleable they are and then give you a quote. This takes time which means is speed is of the essence; they're unlikely to be suitable.
Collection by a House clearance company
House clearance companies specialise in clearing homes after a bereavement or when a tenant leaves without paying the rent. Their quote for the job can be a cost, free or a payment - depending on the quality and number of reusable items in the house and how much other stuff there is present that needs to be removed but cannot be sold and will have to be disposed of for a cost. For more detail, please check out our house clearance guide.
Collection by an Office clearance company
As a house clearance company, an office clearance company is interested in clearing an office after business goes bust or upgrades the office furniture. Please read our office clearance guide for more detail, including rates and how to find and choose a decent office clearance company.
8) Charity free bulky item collection
Charities also provide a potentially free bulky waste collection service. Many charities offer a free or cheap bulky item collection service for unwanted furniture and large appliances. Just like house clearance companies, they look for good quality items that can be sold or passed on to people in need. They do not want messy, dirty bulky waste (like DIY rubble etc.). Nor do they want furniture and appliances that are broken or damaged beyond repair. Upholstered furniture MUST have a fire safety label on it; otherwise, they will not be able to remove it.
Here are some organisations that offer a collect from home donation service. It's important to note that they are charities rather than service businesses, so that means the speed of response and process is likely to be a good deal slower than dealing with a private waste contractor.
Charities that collect unwanted furniture for free
|British Red Cross||furniture|
|Cancer Research UK||arrange-a-collection|
|The Salvation Army||charity-shops|
Remember that many bulky item reuse charities are also registered as collectors on LoveJunk. So instead of ringing around to arrange a collection, you could just post a listing on LoveJunk and let the nearest available collector come to you.
9) Donate to individual
The final free bulky waste collection method is donation to an individual. Suppose you have something that can be reused (e.g. sofa, chest of drawers, fridge). In that case, particularly if you are replacing it with something newer and nicer, instead of paying a waste company or the council to remove it or giving it to a charity, you could try offering to donate it for free to other people.
The old way to do this was to tape a 'please take me' card to the item and place it outside your home on a sunny day. But these days, a much more efficient method is to use an online platform. The most well-known peer to peer donation platforms are Freecycle and Freegle. Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree also have freebie sections. However, a much faster and easier route is to list LoveJunk and select the 'reusable' button (see below).
Use LoveJunk to Reuse
Selecting 'reusable' when you create your LoveJunk listing ensures that nearby reusers (we call them JunkLovers) get notified about your item. So, if they like it, they can offer to collect it for free. From your perspective, if you receive a JunkLover offer, the only cost to you will be a £10 matching fee paid to LoveJunk after the collection. Sure, it's £10 more than using Freecycle, but it's super fast and super easy. And best of all, you won't end up with an email inbox full of questions from random time-wasters who are (still) searching for that perfect shade of sunburnt orange sofa that just isn't quite the same as yours!
Prices: How much does bulky waste collection cost?
If it isn't a free bulky waste collection, the cost depends on a number of factors. Namely, the method of collection, type and amount of waste, how much labour is involved in clearing it, and when you want it collected.
Here is a simple table summarising the main differences in cost between the most popular waste collection methods depending on whether the junk is light and bulky (eg. furniture) or messy and heavy (eg. builder waste).
Cost of Bulky Waste Collection Methods Table
|Collection type||Light/ Clean Junk Collection Price||Dirty / Heavy Waste Collection Price||Notes|
|council bulky||cheap||n/a||slow, no internal collection|
|man & van||cheap||medium||fast, collect from anywhere|
|skip hire||expensive||medium||may require permit, fixed size|
|hippo bag||expensive||expensive||may require permit, fixed size|
Check out our Rubbish Removal Prices Guide for lots of detail on this, including links to collection price guides for different types of waste. Also, if you scroll to the end of this post, we've included a few priced examples of recent jobs undertaken by man & van collectors through the LoveJunk platform. To see thousands more, head to our gallery prices page, where you can filter by bulky waste type.
What is the cheapest way to get rid of bulky rubbish?
Get Paid for it
The cheapest way to get rid of bulky rubbish is to get paid by somebody to take it away. This is even better than a free bulky waste collection. For example, a scrap metal collector because it's metal, a house clearance company, or an individual because the item has intrinsic value. For example, a perfectly nice sofa or working domestic appliances can be used by someone else. Or even a damaged or broken item that would be worth a meaningful amount if repaired or restored. For example, an antique piece of furniture.
Free Bulky Waste Collection
The second cheapest way to get rid of bulky waste is to have it taken away for free. The free bulky waste collection methods are charity collection, house clearance, donation to an individual, or collection by a scrap dealer.
Take it to the Tip yourself
The third-cheapest way to dispose of bulky waste is to take it to your local civic amenity site or HWRC. These are typically completely free to use, but you will generally require proof of residence and a method of transport (plus time and fuel).
Th fourth cheapest way to get rid of bulky waste is to use your council bulky item collection service.
The joint fourth cheapest solution, because often the council bulky waste removal service will be more expensive (or, in the case of DIY and builder waste or commercial rubbish, not available), is to use LoveJunk. It finds your cheapest available collector.
Collection Guides for specific types of Bulky Junk
Below are some detailed guides on how to get rid of specific types of waste.
|Furniture||Furniture Removal Guide|
|Sofa||Sofa Disposal Guide|
|Fridge||Fridge Disposal Guide|
|Mattress||Mattress Disposal Guide|
|Carpet||Carpet Disposal Guide|
|Cardboard||Cardboard Removal Guide|
|DIY waste||DIY Waste Disposal|
|Wheelie bin||Wheelie Bin|
|Piano||Piano Disposal & Removal|
|Office furniture||Office Clearance|
|Garden||Garden Waste Collection|
|Kitchen Installation waste||Kitchen Installation Removal|
|Hazardous waste||Hazardous Waste Removal|
Here are some detailed regional guides for bulky waste collection.
Other ways to dipose of waste
Here are the main other ways you can dispose of bulky waste rather than organising a waste collection.
a) Drive to the Tip / Civic Amenity / HWRC / Dump
Household waste recycling centres (HWRC), civic amenity sites or rubbish tips are available to every resident to dispose of stuff you can't fit into your bin. If you have the means of transport and time to load up your car, taking your bulky item to the tip is a good option because it's free. Or at least it's very cheap - because some councils do charge residents to dispose of certain types of rubbish. Also, HRWCs accept more types of waste than the council's bulky waste collection service does. However, it's important to remember that each HWRC has a list of waste that they accept and prohibit. You can find these lists on their websites.
Can you dispose of a sofa at the tip?
We've included the question of "Can you dump your sofa at the tip?" because so many people don't seem to know. The answer, of course, is YES!! This is because council tips will take any bulky household item, including mattresses, sofa beds, chest of drawers, fridges and old carpet.
However, arguablt the bigger question is "Can I fit my sofa in my car or do I need to hire a van to carry it?". If you need to hire a van, it's probably cheaper getting the council to collect it or finding a collector via LoveJunk.
Map of London recycling centres
Below is a map of all the tips and council recycling centres in London. For further information, read our summary of all London rubbish tips, including opening times, prohibited waste, vehicle restrictions and opening hours.
b) Burn bulky waste
Burning rubbish is not the same as a free bulky waste collection, but it is a free way to dispose of bulky waste. However, a bonfire in your yard or garden, although entirely legal, should really only ever be used for dry garden waste like leaves and wood. Burning stuff like cardboard, packaging and treated wood (this means any wood that has been painted or stained etc) - although it burns well! - is a definite environmental no-no because of the emissions and toxic fumes that burning it creates. Bear in mind also that there are laws against the nuisance caused by smoke from bonfires.
c) Ask your tradesperson to take the rubbish
If your bulky waste is a result of work carried out by a tradesperson or handyman, it's worth asking them if they can take the waste with them when they go. Obviously, if this part of the service wasn't included in the original quote then you should expect them to charge extra for it. Bear in mind too that a tradesperson requires a waste carrier license to remove your waste.
d) Share a skip with your neighbour
Do you have a neighbour that's having builder work being done and has a skip outside their home? If so, rather than trying to sneak it into the skip after dark (only kidding!), why not ask them if you can use it for your bulky waste too and offer to contribute to the cost? There is a good chance their waste disposal costs were a fixed part of the original builder quote, so your extra bit of rubbish could be added for free.
What are the most environmental ways to dispose of bulky waste?
Getting your junk reused is by far the best disposal solution. This means donating to charity or an individual is always the first choice environmentally. Within reuse, though, bear in mind that nearest is best. So, if the person collecting the item lives nearby, that means less carbon footprint involved in the transport.
The second best is recycling. Recycling your waste is more likely to happen if you separate highly recyclable items from others and dispose of them separately. Hence metal for the metal specialists. But equally, if you have lots of garden waste, don't mix it up with more general builder waste or domestic refuse bags. That contaminates the load and makes it much harder for the collector to dispose of it as one material type. They will want to do this because single material types (like cardboard, green waste or bricks) are cheaper to dispose of at the disposal facilities.
Zero landfill disposal facility
Waste that is mixed and cannot be reused will be taken by the waste collector to a licensed commercial disposal facility. These facilities receive the waste, sort it and then send some of it to be recycled. Some waste is burned at an energy plant, and others go to a landfill site. A zero landfill disposal facility sends no waste to landfill. In other words, it is either recycled or goes to waste to energy. When you use LoveJunk, the landfill diversion of the facility used by your collector is shown in your disposal documentation. Around 40% of all sites used on the platform are currently zero landfill.
Finally, thanks for reading! Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions about anything in this article - [email protected]