Bulky Waste Disposal Guide for Householders
How to get rid of stuff too big for your wheelie bin
- Definition – what is bulky waste for householders?
- Overview – what are the main disposal options for household bulky waste?
- Retailer take-back service – removal of the item you are replacing
- House clearance – when should I use a house clearance company for bulky waste?
- Council dump – what bulky waste can I take to my local tip?
- Council bulky waste collection service for householders – how does it work?
- Man and van rubbish clearance – using a specialist contractor
- Skip hire – hire a skip and fill it yourself
- Skip bag – buy a bag and have it collected
- Bonfires – can I burn my bulky waste?
- Money saving tips & other resources for bulky waste
For the purposes of this article, the definition of ‘Bulky waste’ for a householder is any item or material you wish to dispose of that cannot be sold or donated and that is too big for your wheelie bin. It covers ‘clean bulky junk’ like furniture, appliances (eg. fridge, dishwasher), bicycles, soft furnishings, mattresses, packaging materials, and bric-a-brac, and ‘messy, dirty junk’ like home improvement /DIY waste (eg. rubble, broken tiles), doors & windows, kitchen and bathroom units, fence panels, garden refuse, and old flooring.
Slightly confusingly, the above definition differs from the one used by councils which typically excludes the ‘messy dirty junk’. This is because councils have a statutory obligation to receive bulky waste from householders for no charge, but this duty only extends to waste that is unrelated to home improvement, construction & demolition work. Councils refer to the latter type of waste as ‘trade waste’. Council dumps generally do not accept trade waste. It needs to be disposed of at commercial waste facilities who charge companies by weight to do so. More details on this definition confusion can be found on the WRAP website.
Excluding any items that can be sold or donated, there are a number of (legal!) ways to get rid of your bulky waste. In summary these are:
- Retailer take-back – removal of your old appliance, furniture or kitchen
- House clearance – use a house clearance company
- Council dump – drive it to your civic amenity site, tip or Household Waste & Recycling Centre
- Council collection – book a bulky waste collection from your council
- Man & van clearance – use a specialist rubbish clearance contractor
- Skip hire – hire a skip
- Skip bag – use a skip bag or Hippo bag
- Burn it – have a bonfire in your garden
Many retailers offer their customers a service to remove and dispose of the old item that you are replacing. So if you are upgrading something in your home (eg. sofa, carpet, mattress, kitchen, dishwasher, garden fence, garden shed) and need to dispose of the old one, check with the company you are buying the new one from if they offer a take-back service. Bear in mind that this will not always be the cheapest option, but it will almost certainly be the most convenient because the removal typically occurs at the same time as the delivery / installation of the item you are replacing.
House clearance companies are essentially dealers in second hand furniture & bric-a-brac. They will clear part or all of your home with a view to reselling as much of the items they remove as possible. Where they see a lot of ‘value’ in a clearance – ie. the home is full with stuff they know they can sell very easily or has a few items they know to be worth quite a lot of money – they will charge very little or even nothing to do the house clearance. On the other hand, if very few of the contents to be cleared seem resalable and therefore need to go to the tip, their rates are likely to be very high (or they might just decline to do the job altogether).
Bear in mind house clearance companies always visit the home first to view the contents before providing a quote. This is to decide how much of it can be resold and therefore what price to charge. This process is called ‘totting’ – referring to the person totting up the value of everything in their head.
It’s worth bearing in mind that if a house clearance company is prepared to undertake your clearance for very little, then it’s more than likely that your stuff has a reasonable resale value. In which case, if you can face the effort, you might consider taking some of it to auction or selling it on ebay yourself, and then getting the real junk taken away by a rubbish clearance company.
If you have the time, the muscles and the wheels, a trip or several trips to your local civic amenity site (or household waste & recycling centre) is the cheapest option for getting rid of your bulky waste. But here are a few top tips:
- Don’t hire a van – council tips normally have height restrictions to stop tradespeople from tipping for free – so arriving in a van is likely to prevent you getting in
- If your waste is messy, it’s likely to make your car dirty – so transport it in containers or put a tarpaulin down to protect the inside of your car.
- Check what types of rubbish they allow – after spending time loading up your junk and driving all the way there, you don’t want to be told on arrival that they can’t take your waste. For example, certain tips do not take paint or oil.
- Avoid the queues – Saturdays and Sunday morning are normally heaving and the wait times can be long. So if possible go on a weekday when it’s nice and quiet.
- Check if they charge – most councils do not charge householders to use the tip, but some do. For example, Brent council charge for DIY type waste like bathroom and kitchen fittings, bricks, rubble, soil, fence panels and ‘anything you wouldn’t take with you when moving house’. They don’t accept payment in cash or cheques either, they only accept credit or debit card payments.
- Don’t forget to bring proof of residence – most tips ask for documentary evidence that you are a local resident. This could include a driving license or a recent council tax bill, so remember to bring one in case you’re asked.
All that said, if you do decide to use the tip, you get to see exactly where the waste goes and make sure it gets put into the correct recycling container. All of which can be remarkably satisfying!
Every local authority must provide residents with a collection service for bulky household waste. They’re not supposed to charge for the waste disposal part of it (provided the waste isn’t trade waste) but can charge a reasonable fee to cover the transport. In practise this means that the council bulky waste collection service is generally cheaper than using a private waste contractor (in fact some councils offer the service for free) but the service is as good. Response times can be quite slow, the waste normally has to be placed out front of your property, and also several items and materials are excluded. Check with your local council about what they offer and see if your waste is suitable. If you have the time and are keen to minimise cost, it might make sense to use your council for the stuff they can take, and then book a waste contractor for the rest.
Using a specialist man & van rubbish clearance company is the easiest solution if you have a range of waste materials and don’t mind paying a bit for someone else to sort the problem for you. Man & van firms load waste from anywhere on the property and sweep the area clean. Because they provide the service day in day out, they will typically get the work done a lot quicker than you would ever expect. They will normally be able to come to your property on very short notice (for example we offer 2 hour response in London) and, unlike the council collection service, will have no problem taking trade/ builder type waste at the same time as household junk.
A man & van collection (unless you have lots of very heavy, dense material to get rid of like rubble) is generally significantly cheaper than hiring a skip and a lot more flexible. It is also better for the environment because the vehicle only comes to your property once, whereas a skip lorry comes twice – once to deliver and then once to collect.
Full details of man & van rubbish clearance including likely rates, estimating collection size, and what to expect on the day, can be found in our definitive man & van rubbish clearance guide.
Hiring a skip is a simple solution for getting rid of bulky waste from the home. The beauty of a skip is that it works as a nice container for waste as you fill it and also it is a fixed upfront price. The main downsides are they are expensive (compared to the other options), can cause damage to your driveway, neighbours fill them up when you’re not looking, and you have to do all the labour yourself. Plus they’re not super great for the environment. In practise, hiring a skip is usually the best option if you have lots of messy, heavy waste like soil, bricks and rubble, but always ensure you protect your driveway properly before delivery.
Lots more advice on how skip hire works including how much you should expect to pay, prohibited items, skip permits and choosing the right size can be found in our skip hire guide.
Skip bags are bulky, tough bags you use like a skip. You buy the bag, fill it up and then pay someone to collect it. They are particularly good for small garden or DIY projects with lots of heavy, messy waste like tiles or soil. The bags come in a number of sizes, the most popular being a 1 cubic yard and also a 1.5 cubic yard. You can buy skip bags in builders merchants like B&Q, Travis Perkins and Wickes. Hippo bags are the most well-known brand of skip bags but are quite expensive because they are designed to be strong enough for Hippowaste’s collection lorries to lift them up using their crane arm without splitting.
A cheaper alternative is to use a standard builder’s bag and then book a man & van rubbish clearance company to empty it. This option also means you don’t need to put the filled bag close to the road for the lorry crane because the crew can collect from anywhere on the property. Note, just like a skip, if you put a skip bag on a public road or pavement, you will need a skip permit. You can find out more about permits here. Skip bags are useful for containing waste and unlike a metal skip they won’t ever damage your driveway. Plus – assuming you have it emptied by a man & van clearance company – you can reuse the bag again and again.
Read more about skip bags in our skip bag guide.
Definitely not our no.1 choice, but no list for bulky waste disposal would be complete without covering burning. Did you know that there are no laws in the UK prohibiting householders from burning stuff in their yard or garden? The only laws (under the Environmental Protection Act) are for nuisance a fire causes. In other words, you can pretty much burn anything you like provided your neighbours don’t complain from the smell or smoke or nearby road users aren’t put at risk because of poor visibility. By the way, that’s true even if you live in a smoke free zone – because those bylaws only apply to smoke from fires that come out of your chimney. But just because an activity is legal, does not make it necessarily the right thing to do! We recommend limiting your bonfires to garden waste like branches, twigs and leaves. And try to ensure it’s as dry as possible, to minimise the smoke. Btw, burning treated wood – ie. wood in things like furniture, garden sheds, decking and fence panels – is definitely a bad idea. It’s full of preservatives and releases toxic chemicals when burned.
A few other guides that you may find useful when planning on how to get rid of your bulky waste:
- Top tips to cut the cost of bulky rubbish clearance
- Man & van rubbish clearance guide
- Skip hire guide
- Skip bag guide