Disposing of junk responsibly

How to manage rubbish removal responsibly

The BBC’s 2017 nature documentary series Blue Planet II, with its images of animals struggling in the face of overwhelming ocean pollution, prompted a phenomenal public and political reaction, surprising its seasoned narrator Sir David Attenborough, and bringing the global experience of pollution into stark focus. However, we don’t have to travel far to personally experience it, either – fly-tipping is on the rise in the UK, with the sight of random rubbish piles in fields, public, and private land becoming more common. Reports from climate scientists add a further sense of urgency for someone to just do something.

But how does that affect me?

Councils state that all homeowners are obligated to ensure legal disposal of their waste, including waste generated from work done on their property. Don’t forget, this includes rubbish removal companies, skip hire, and their alternatives engaged by individuals and businesses. Beware of ‘waste cowboys’: these are individuals or services that promise to dispose of your rubbish quickly and cheaply, but are actually doing so illegally and contributing to the issue of fly tipping in the process.

We all vaguely know there are repercussions for fly tipping, but to make it clear, these can include imprisonment and fines of up to £50 000, as well as ramifications for the homeowner should they be traced. Be aware of the legislation that came into effect in 2016, which subjects individuals to fixed penalty notices of up to £400  for small-scale incidents of fly-tipping. Using cheap rubbish removal services hurts not only the environment but also your wallet – outside the risk of receiving a fine, taxpayers pay for the removal of fly tipped rubbish, which in 2016/2017 totalled a staggering £57.7 million in England alone.

What are my rubbish removal options?

Sometimes your rubbish exceeds (or isn’t) what the council will take kerb-side. You then have a few choices to think about, each with their considerations. The cheapest option is to personally make multiple trips to the recycling centre. While the most economical choice, it also requires more time and physical effort than you may have, and you’ll have to clean the car afterwards. Another option is skip hire; while handy to have a personal disposal unit on site, especially for long-term projects or large amounts of soil/rubble, others might not consider it so personal and will happily fill it without your permission. You’ll also need space on your property or a permit for having it on the road, and the costs can mount up – you pay for the skip size, not the amount you put in it, and excess fees are charged if you unknowingly overfill it.

A third option is a professional ‘man with van’ outfit or rubbish removal company, which are very useful on occasions where you are unable to dispose of your rubbish personally. You only pay for what’s taken, items are removed from any location on your property, and they will leave the area clean and tidy for you. An added bonus is the better rubbish removal companies are choosing to donate and recycle where possible to reduce the amount of your waste that goes to landfill. Licensed rubbish removal companies and individuals are a reasonable option between the two above – while not as cheap as making the trip to the tip on your own, it is generally cheaper than a skip, and a more flexible rubbish removal option.

If you do decide that a man with van rubbish removal company is a good fit for your needs, watch out for those ‘waste cowboys’. They have no concern for the environment or you, fouling public and private land, and putting your finances and legal rights at risk by potentially exposing you to fines and prosecution.

But don’t worry. It’s easy to be smart about your rubbish removal needs. Below you’ll find four strategies we’ve compiled to help you avoid employing an illegitimate company or individual, and putting yourself at unnecessary risk.

How can I manage my rubbish removal responsibly?

1.   Ensure they are licensed to conduct this work.  Professional rubbish removal companies are legally required to hold a Higher Tier Waste Carriers License, issued by the Environment Agency.  Any registered company will provide their licence number, and you can search the register to check their status.

2.  Are they insured to do this work? As you would expect, they should be insured in the unlikely event that something happens during collection. A professional rubbish removal company will hold appropriate public liability insurance, and employers liability insurance if they have a team.

3.   Will they issue me with a waste transfer note?  While not necessary for household rubbish, it’s a legal requirement for rubbish removal companies to issue them to businesses so they can evidence appropriate waste management. You can request one as a householder if you so wish – be cautious if they decline or seem uncomfortable in doing so.

4.   Check their online presence. Do they have a website? Social media accounts? Reviews? Are they easy to contact i.e. do they offer more than just an untraceable mobile number and only advertise on Gumtree or Facebook?  Professional companies are proud of their customers’ positive experiences and know how valuable they are for potential clients. Look for reviews hosted on independent platforms such as Google or Facebook as these are more likely to be genuine.

Is there anything else I should watch out for?

If you are provided with a lower than average quote, or an insistence on cash payment, that’s a good time to ask about licenses, insurance, and disposal facilities. A lower quote could indicate no margin for business fees, like disposal costs, and cash transactions are not easily traceable. A legitimate waste or rubbish removal company will be happy to provide documentation, discuss any of the points above, and be transparent about where they will dispose of your rubbish.  


While it can be tempting to take the cheap way out, you run the risk of contributing to the pollution problem and putting yourself at financial and legal risk. Use these strategies if you’re looking for someone to take on your house clearance, rubbish removal, or commercial waste removal needs, and you can be confident that you are taking full responsibility for your rubbish and receiving the best service possible.

If you have any questions regarding waste disposal or anything mentioned in this article, please contact us at [email protected]

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