Rubbish clearance – the ultimate guide
Detailed Guide to Clearance & Disposal of Bulky Rubbish, Waste & Junk
Looking for no-nonsense, environmentally responsible, and money-saving advice on Rubbish Clearance? Well, you've found it.
Here is our definitive guide to everything you ever wanted to know on rubbish clearance, junk disposal and bulky waste collection. It's written by people with over 30 years of experience in bulky waste collection in the UK and whether you are a householder, DIY enthusiast, clutter-free consultant, tradesperson, or office manager – there’s something here for everyone.
- Definition of Rubbish Clearance
- Clearance by Hand or Machine
- Containment of bulky waste
- Types of Bulky Waste Collectors
- Price - how much does a rubbish clearance cost?
- Factors affecting rubbish collection price
- Regulation of rubbish clearance
- Fly-tipping - the illegal side of rubbish clearance
- Rubbish Clearance for Specific Bulky Waste Types
Definition of Rubbish Clearance
'Rubbish Clearance' is the on-demand removal and disposal of loose waste from a site or property. The service is reactive (ie. 'Please clear my waste today') rather than scheduled (ie. 'Please empty my bin twice a week for the next year'). The expression is most commonly associated with removal of Bulky Waste but also includes ad hoc collection of excess wheelie bin waste.
Clearance by Hand or Machine
Rubbish clearance can be carried out by hand or machine. Clearance by hand, when a person lifts the waste up and carries it to a vehicle, is often referred to as 'handballing' and the service described as 'including labour'. Rubbish clearance by machine is usually done using a grab lorry or grabber (see below) - which has a mechanised arm that scoops up the loose waste and puts it in the back. Grabbers are generally only used for jobs with large amounts of loose earth and rubble. A similar solution can be achieved using a digger that scoops and carries the loose waste into a container or nearby lorry. For smaller jobs, it's more normal for people to use wheelbarrows.
Containment of bulky waste
There are 4 main ways bulky rubbish can be stored pending collection:
- Loose – the waste is stacked or piled loosely without containment. As such it will need to be removed by hand and carried to the vehicle (or a grabber lorry used).
- Hippo bag or skip bag – a builder style bag that the creator of the waste fills in advance of collection. The skip bag is then collected by a 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. More info hippo bag collection and skip bag collection here. Also, check out this guide for the best discount codes.
- Skip – a skip (or RoRo which 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.
- Wheelie Bin - sometimes you have so much rubbish (for example packaging from a furniture delivery) that you try to cram it in to your bin but your bins are so full you need it emptied before your scheduled waste collection. Too much waste for your wheelie bin is an increasing problem for many of us with the rise of Amazon and ecommerce.
Types of Bulky Waste Collectors
a) Waste removal contractors
Licensed waste operators that charge to remove waste. They include man & van collection businesses, skip hire companies, and skip bag providers. If you're willing to pay for disposal and need the waste removed quickly and responsibly, then these are your first choice.
b) Retailer take-back service
To help solve their customers' pain point, some retailers offer a disposal solution for the old item being replaced. This service is often referred to as a ‘take-back service’. It is particularly popular with mattress, furniture and appliance retailers and also kitchen and bathroom companies. Large retailers of electrical appliances are legally obliged to offer an in-store waste electrical take back service and it looks like this concept of extended producer responsibility will in due course being extended to furniture retailers too.
Retailer take-back is normally reasonably well priced (retailers often subsidise the service to encourage you to buy the new item) and convenient because they organise for you at the same time as the delivery. Note however that it is only available to customers who are buying a replacement item - not the general public.
c) Council bulky item collection service (residents only!)
Almost every council offers a low cost bulky item collection service to householders. Typically the service just covers Clean Junk (ie. non-DIY / builder style waste). The cost of this service depends on your local authority. Councils each have their own set of permitted and prohibited items - for example, some won’t accept fridges or anything remotely DIY waste, whereas some actually allow you to dispose of an entire garden shed. Waiting times vary dramatically depending on how busy they are and how much capacity they have, although you should certainly expect to wait at least 1 week and in some instances up to 8 weeks! Most councils do not collect from within the property. Read our guide to London council bulky waste disposal.
d) DIY - Remove it yourself
Everyone – householders and businesses - is allowed to transport their own rubbish to a disposal site (meaning the local tip or household waste recycling centre if you are a householder or a commercial disposal facility if you are a business) or to another property under your control. For householders, this option is particularly appealing because HWRCs are mostly free to use. The downsides are the time it takes to do this (the drive to and from the tip and the queue times, particuarly at peak times like Saturday and Sunday mornings) and the need for a vehicle to transport your junk. In practise, if you have the time and a car, it's perfect for smaller items that you can fit in your boot, but for larger furniture, more major DIY waste, and bulky garden refuse, another disposal option may be required.
Assuming your bulky item is is good condition then this is obviously a great solution. Reusers comprise everyone from reuse charities, social enterprises, house clearance and office clearance businesses to individuals who want second hand items via platforms like Freecycle, Freegle, eBay, Facebook Marketplace, Gumtree and NextDoor.
For more reuse ideas and information, take a look at this Ultimate Guide to Furniture Reuse blog.
Price - how much does a rubbish clearance cost?
The cost of a rubbish clearance depends on the solution you choose to use:
a) Taking it to the Tip is free - Disposal is free if you remove the waste yourself by taking it to your local tip. Obviously this assumes you have a vehicle and you have the time to do it!
b) Council collection service is cheap - the price of a council bulky waste collection is subsidised but rarely free (only 11 councils in England offer a free service). Rates vary across the country, with the average price for removal of a single item around £28.
c) Using a private contractor costs money, unless your rubbish has resale value. Here are price guides (with lots oif photo examples) of how much people are paying waste collection companies today to dispose of different types of bulky waste: trade/diy waste, bulky waste, hippo bags, mattresses, fridges and sofas. For a wider selection of waste types, visit the LoveJunk price gallery.
6. Factors affecting rubbish collection price
The cost of a collection by a man & van waset contractor 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 rubbish 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 can be placed neatly in a location that is easy to access, it 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 junk removal 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.
7. Regulation of rubbish clearance
This subject is a blog in itself, but the most important bit from a customer perspective is that if you pay anyone to remove your waste, they MUST have a waste carriers license (which is issued by the Environment Agency or SEPA if you're based in Scotland) and ideally should provide you a waste transfer note documenting the collection. Also, they should only take your waste (unless it is passed on for reuse) to a licensed commercial recycling facility or waste transfer station.
8. Fly-tipping - the illegal side of rubbish clearance
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 the responsibility of the landowner to remove and dispose of it safely. If tipped on public land, it is the responsibility of the local council.
If a private waste contractor offers you a price that seems too good to be true, it probably is. All waste collectors on the LoveJunk platform are licensed by the Environment Agency and provide disposal proof after each collection. That way you can always rest assured knowing your waste has been disposed of responsibly 🙂
9. Rubbish Clearance of Specific Bulky Waste Types
- Garden waste - If you need to dispose of garden waste you can use your local council’s green waste collection service, pay a man & van waste contractor, hire a skip, use a skip bag, turn it into compost or burn it. Read our garden waste collection guide for lots more background or, if you're in a hurry, simply click the following link to find your cheapest garden waste removal company in seconds.
- Garden shed disposal - Sheds are often classed as DIY waste by councils which means they will not be collected as part of the council's bulky waste collection service. So you will either have to take the dismantled shed to your Household Waste Recycling sites or pay a man and van waste company to remove it. For full detail, read out garden shed disposal guide.
- Fridge disposal - When you no longer want your fridge (assuming you cannot sell or donate it) you can take it to the council tip, book a council bulky waste collection, or hire a waste removal company. Check out our fridge disposal guide for detailed info on each option, including links to how much councils charge for collection of a fridge. and what the average price is for fridge disposal paid to a licensed waste contractor. Or if you simply want it gone asap, go to our fridge recycling page now to find the cheapest available collector today.
- House clearance - clearing a whole property rather than just a few items is a much larger undertaking. For a stress-free house clearance, we strongly recommend you read our house clearance guide.This covers the pros and cons of doing it yourself and using a specialist as well as some tried and test ways to approach the challenge. And, if any of your furniture is in good condition, check out this furniture reuse and donation blog to save a few trips to the tip!
- Carpets & flooring disposal - When you have a new carpet fitted, you're usually left with the old carpet, offcut underlay, gripper rods and packaging to dispose of. The following are the main disposal solutions to consider: paying your carpet fitter to take the carpet away, using a carpet retailer take-back service, taking the carpet to your local tip or paying for a man & van/skip to remove the waste. Read our how-to guides for more in-depth guidance on carpet disposal and carpet uplift and removal.
- Bulky Appliances - cooker, tumble dryer, dishwasher - If you need to get rid of your bulky appliance on a budget, the easiest option is to see if your retailer offers a take-back service when you buy a new appliance through them. If that's not an option, you could take the junk to your local HWRC, or you could see if any scrap metal collectors are interested. If it's still in decent condition, you may also want to give the reuse and resale market a try. However, if you're happy to pay for the disposal, you could use your council bulky waste collection service or you could use a private waste contractor (like us!). Check out our dishwasher disposal guide for more info on getting rid of a bulky appliance.
- Wheelie bin waste - If you're creating too much rubbish for your wheelie bin, it can become a problem not knowing what to do with the waste until your next bin collection. So, if you're struggling and need the waste gone asap, there are a few ways to solve the problem. If you're in a hurry, your fastest option is to pay a man & van waste team to collect your waste. Collectors on the LoveJunk marketplace typically charge around £10-£30 for a rubbish collection. However, there are some other solutions such as separating your waste into the correct recycling streams, therefore reducing the amount of waste ending up in the wheelie bin or you could request a larger wheelie bin from your council. Read our blog for what to do with too much rubbish for your wheelie bin for further guidance, or click the following link to find your nearest and cheapest wheelie bin waste collection form a private waste contractor.
- Kitchen installation waste disposal - The price of kitchen installation waste disposal depends on the size of the kitchen you're replacing and if you need to dispose of the old kitchen too. The typical waste included in the installation of a kitchen is offcuts, packaging waste, small hazardous items, the old kitchen and any reusable packaging waste that can be sent back to the manufacturer (ie. the 'pizza boxes' used to protect countertops). Here's a breakdown of waste generated from kitchen & bathroom installation work.
- Builders waste & rubble - Disposing of builders/DIY waste is generally more expensive than bulky waste. You could remove the waste yourself by taking it to your local civic amenity site or you could pay someone else to stay the waste away by using your local councils collection service or using a waste contractor. We've created a handy guide for tradespeople on how to dispose of trade waste and another that includes guide prices and example photos of trade waste disposal. You can be matched with a trade waste removal company on the LoveJunk marketplace in seconds.
- Piano Disposal - Getting rid of a piano can be tricky because the size and weight of the instrument makes it difficult to move it from A to B. There are companies that specialise in piano removals or you could pay a local waste team to collect and possibly even dismantle the piano for you. However, it's worth trying to see if anyone else would be interested in taking your piano off of your hands. Various online websites allow you to donate or sell your piano, such as Facebook Marketplace. If the transportation of the piano is an issue, you could specify in your online listing that the piano is collection only. For loads more detail and advice check out our Piano disposal guide.
- Hazardous waste, including asbestos - Here is a list of hazardous waste. We recommend leaving hazardous waste and asbestos disposal to the professionals. But if you're planning to handle any kind of hazardous waste disposal yourself, please make sure you take extreme care and wear appropriate PPE.
- Same day rubbish clearance service - If you're in a rush and need waste removed on the same day, don't panic. Just read our guide to same day rubbish removal. It covers all of the various options you can try including a drive to the tip, using a man & van waste service, and hiring a wait & load skip. Biut definitely don't bother with using your local council bulky waste collection service as the chances of availability on the same day is zero.