Bulky waste collection – the ultimate guide
Here is our definitive guide to everything you ever wanted to know (and possibly a few things you didn’t) about getting rid of bulky waste. Whether you are a tradesperson, DIY enthusiast, clutter free minimalist, office manager or just someone with an old sofa they want to dispose of – there’s something here for everyone.
- Definition - what is bulky waste collection?
- Types of bulky waste collection
- Types of collectors - council, private waste contractors, house & office clearance companies, retailers, fly-tippers
- Regulation - duty of care & waste carriers license
- Factors affecting price
- End disposal, landfill diversion and recycling
Bulky Waste (sometimes referred to as junk or bulky rubbish) can be defined as any rubbish you cannot fit in your regular bin. For simplicity it can be split into two broad categories:
- Clean Junk – relatively clean, standalone items from within the home or office like furniture (eg. sofa, chair, wardrobe, table, desk, filing cabinet, mattress), appliances (e.g. fridge, dishwashers, washing machine, microwave, PC), bicycles, soft furnishings, packaging, and general bric-a-brac; and
- Dirty Junk – messy, loose waste created by tradesmen and builders or from DIY work and also bulky garden refuse. For example broken tiles, bricks, rubble, pipes, tiles, doors, windows & window frames, plasterboard and drywall, MDF, kitchen and bathroom units, fence panels, garden refuse, old flooring & underlay. It’s the sort of stuff you’d generally rather not put in your car without first putting down some decent covers.
Note that councils typically limit their bulky waste definition to “items you take with you when you move house” in the context of their bulky waste collection service for householders. In other words, they exclude Dirty Junk and also anything at a business premises. This is because councils have a statutory obligation to receive Clean Junk from householders at their civic amenity sites free of charge, but they have no duty to accept waste related to home improvement, construction or demolition work, or trade waste.
Whether bulky waste is domestic or commercial depends on the type of premises it’s being collected from (ie. business or home) and secondly who created it (ie. business, tradesperson or householder). Whether junk is domestic or commercial is relevant because it affects which options for collection are available and also how much you pay.
Note any waste that comes from a commercial activity is considered commercial waste, even if this activity is performed at a household. For instance, if you decide to change the bathroom unit yourself, the waste generated by this activity will typically be considered commercial waste by the local authority, and not household waste.
Bulky Waste Collection can be defined as the removal and subsequent disposal of bulky waste from a site.
There are broadly 4 types of bulky waste collection:
- Man & van – removal of loose waste by hand. The waste is picked up from wherever it is on the property by someone, carried to the vehicle and then loaded into it.
- Grabber lorry – removal of loose waste by machine. The waste is picked up and loaded onto a lorry by a mechanical arm. Suitable for large piles of waste that are accessible easily by a large lorry.
- Skip bag – a large builder style bag that the creator of the waste fills in advance of collection. The skip bag is then collected by the waste collection company – either using a mechanical hoist to lift the whole bag onto the lorry or alternatively the bag can be emptied manually and the waste handballed onto the vehicle
- Skip (or RoRo) – the skip (RoRo stands for roll-on roll-off container and is just a larger skip) is a metal container that is dropped off empty at the property, filled by the waste creator, then collected by the skip provider and emptied. Skips come in a variety of sizes and require a permit if you place them on a public highway.
There is a sort of bonus 5th type which is collecting bulky waste that has been compacted beforehand (eg. cardboard) – but this is mentioned only for completeness.
Bulky waste can be taken away by any of the following:
- Waste contractors – local, regional or national licensed operators that offer one or more waste collection services (ie. man & van collection, skip hire, grabber lorries or skip bags)
- Remove it yourself – householders and businesses are allowed to transport their own waste to a disposal site (meaning the local tip if you are a householder or a commercial disposal facility if you are a business) or to another property under their control.
- Retailers – some retailers offer their customers a pick-up and disposal solution for the item or items being replaced. This is often referred to as a ‘take-back service’. It is popular with mattress, furniture and appliance retailers and also kitchen and bathroom companies. Retailer take-back is normally reasonably cost effective (retailers often subsidise the service to encourage you to buy the new item) and convenient because they organise for you.
- Council bulky waste collection service – available to householders only but only for Clean Junk
- Reuse organisations - charities, social enterprises, house clearance and office clearance firms. They don’t want waste though, they want things that can be resold. So Clean Junk which can be reused.
If you’re getting rid of clean waste or dirty waste occasionally, you won’t need to register as a waste carrier. However, you will have to register as a waste carrier, if as part of your business you regularly:
- transport waste
- buy, sell or dispose of waste
- arrange for someone else to buy, sell or dispose of waste
Registration is free if you only transport waste you produce yourself. Otherwise, registration costs £154. Does this apply to you? Learn more here.
The cost of a bulky waste collection is driven by a whole range of factors, of which the main are:
- weight & waste type - regardless of whether you the customer are charged by weight or volume, behind the scenes waste collectors pay to dispose of their waste on the basis of waste type and weight. Light recyclables therefore cost less than heavy non-recyclables. by way of background, when a collector's waste vehicle enters a disposal facility, it is weighed on arrival and, having offloaded the waste, weighed on exit. It is then charged on the weight difference and the rate is based on the type of waste delivered. In most instances, the waste type is unsegregated mixed non-hazardous waste ('Mixed General Waste'). But where segregation occurs prior to disposal, the waste type can be one of many sub-sets (eg. light ferrous metal, inert, wood, cardboard, green waste). As a rule of thumb, mixed general waste is the most expensive to dispose of because it requires the disposal facility to do the most work. In other words they have to segregate and sort it themselves in order to extract the recyclable materials.
- access/ ease of loading - with loose waste, ease of access and loading, means less man hours, which means less cost. On the other hand, difficult access, lots of time spent on site, means more labour and therefore higher prices. So if the waste cane placed neatly in a location that is easy to access, should will be better.
- container hire duration - if you require a container to store the waste prior to collection -the most common being a skip - then use of that container comes at a slight cost. Although for simplicity hire of the container is normally included in the price for the first 7 - 14 days because it is such an integral part of the skip business.
- geography - the cost of disposal varies quite a bit depending on where you are in the UK as a result of differing costs of labour, rent, proximity to waste to energy plants and landfill sites, and local government subsidy.
Dumping waste on public or private land without consent is illegal and referred to as fly tipping. If it is tipped on private land, it is responsibility of the landowner to remove and dispose of it safely. If tipped on public land, it is the responsibility of the local council.
Other posts that might be of interest:
- Council bulky waste disposal options in London
- Everything you need to know about London council's bulky waste collections service
- The ultimate guide to London's rubbish tips