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Getting rid of building waste

Getting rid of building waste

From a man with a van to skip hire and diverting waste from landfill – here are some top tips.

When you embark on a building project, you’re going to have to dispose of a lot of heavy waste and rubble - bricks, tiles, timber, glass, plasterboard, pipes, old carpets and packaging. Increasingly, there are options for salvaging and reusing or recycling these materials, but a large proportion of building waste is still being sent to landfill or for incineration. So, what are the best ways to manage it?

Building waste

Reduction of waste materials.

Government experts estimate 13 per cent of raw materials on construction projects are discarded unused. Put simply, waste is created as a result of over-ordering. Taking the time to estimate accurately will mean less waste is produced in the first place. It may sound obvious, but only buy enough materials to get the job done. That said, it’s better to have a little too much than not enough. Choose suppliers that offer ‘take back’ schemes and keep protective packing on to reduce risk of damage. Return any damaged materials to the supplier so they don’t become your responsibility. Ask suppliers to take back their plastic and cardboard packaging as well as wooden pallets.

Reuse and recycle

Recycling materials on site also avoids waste being created and achieves further cost savings by reducing the need to purchase new products. Ask your architect and/or building contractor at the preliminary design stages to consider what materials and waste will be generated and to maximise re-use of construction materials, such as old bricks, tiles and timber offcuts. Crushed concrete rubble can be reused as hardcore on site to create a base for load-bearing concrete floors, paths and patios, for example.

Dismantling buildings rather than knocking them down with machines increases the amount of materials, such as brick and tiles, that can be salvaged and reused although it will take longer – and the labour cost more. Some construction companies have multiple skips to separate waste materials but how well they recycle on site will vary with contractor. It costs less to send properly segregated waste to disposal facilities than mixed material skips which need to be mechanically sorted and handpicked, so there is a financial incentive.

Ask prospective contractors to indicate in their tenders the likely quantities of building materials required and waste recovery plans. You can donate or sell unused and salvaged materials, such as old kitchen cabinets.  Use community Reuse Networks and internet sites like Ebay, Freecycle or Freegle to find homes for unwanted items and keep stuff out of landfill. Salvage yards are also a great place for selling materials, such as fireplaces and steel baths.

Skip hire

Hiring a skip is perhaps the most popular way of removing building waste. Skips are delivered and collected by large HGVs after being left on site to be filled up. They come in different sizes and are measured in cubic yards. Six cubic yards or a ‘six-yarder’ skip is common for home improvement projects, but bigger and smaller sizes are available.  Average UK skip hire prices (including VAT) are £226 for a six-yarder and £253 for an eight-yarder – prices correct in January 2020. It’s worth getting several estimates to get the best deal. 

Remember to consider not only the amount of rubbish you need to get rid of but also exactly where your skip will go. If you have space on your driveway, then great. Skips can’t block public footpaths or be left on council land.  You will have to apply to your local authority for a permit to leave the skip in the road and possibly a parking bay suspension which will incur extra costs. Some skip hire companies can organise this for you. Not having a skip permit is unlawful, you can be liable to a fine and the skip can be removed at any time.

Man with a Van

The ‘man and van’ style waste clearance is a cost-effective and handy alternative for those struggling to find space for a skip, although perhaps surprisingly many people never consider it. This service involves loading waste from your project into a truck, sweeping up any loose material and delivering it to a licenced waste disposal facility. It can be provided by large, professional rubbish clearance companies, one-man bands and some councils. However local authority collection services are often limited to furniture, appliances and other household junk, rather than builders’ and home improvement waste.

Rates will vary with the volume of waste removed. As a rough guide, a half truck (seven cubic yards) costs around £220, including VAT and full yard 14-yard truck around £360, according to AnyJunk. If you go down this route, check the man with a van has a waste carrier licence. If they aren’t registered with the Environment Agency, they could be cowboys and your waste could end up fly-tipped on the side of the road or in a bonfire.

Skip bags

Super strong skip bags can be a convenient solution for smaller projects or for getting rid of everything from old bathroom suites to bricks. It means you don’t have to worry about a rubbish mountain messing up your lawn or driveway. Skip bags come flat packed in different sizes and can be bought online or at many DIY stores. You simply find a spot to put the skip bag and book a collection when you’ve finished filling it with rubbish. Providers include Hippobag which is happy to take heavy waste, including rubble. Alternatively, you can simply stack the building waste on a ground sheet.

Local tips

For smaller DIY projects, it may be possible to put the rubble and waste in the back of your own van and take it to the local tip. Rules on disposing of waste at household waste recycling centres are strict as they are for use of residents only. Some sites have CCTV cameras to record car registrations of people using them. You’re usually allowed to dispose of waste from home improvement projects so long as you’re the person doing the work. However, if you’re employing builders, it will be treated as commercial waste.

Most councils offer a trade waste service. Costs vary with the amount and type of waste. For example, Hampshire County Council’s site contractor (Veolia UK) charges £50 for a small van, £120 for a medium van 1-2 tonnes, £300 for a large van up to 3 tonnes and £280 for an extra-large van up to 3.5 tonnes. There is a separate scale of charges for trailers.

Hazardous waste

There are some hazardous waste products that can’t be dumped in skips or taken to your local tip. These include asbestos, chemicals and solvents, including paint which can result in soil and water pollution. Asbestos kills and its use in the construction industry has been banned since the mid-1980s. If you inhale asbestos fibres, they can embed in your lungs and cause cancer. If you find asbestos in your home, it’s always safest to hire specialist, licensed asbestos contractors who will dispose of it in accordance with UK regulations to protect you and everyone around you from the toxic dust. It is illegal to re-use, recycle or dump asbestos products.

There are a number of different ways to get rid of building waste. Factors to consider include volume, type of materials, site access and budget. Remember to follow the dictum ‘reduce, recycle and reuse’ and cut down on the amount of materials you throw away.