Commercial recycling collections guide

18th October 2017

A guide for local authorities to help determine, implement and optimise efficient and effective commercial recycling collection services, including examples of good practice, an overview of relevant legislation and evidence-based approaches to assessing and improving performance.

Key findings
41% of English micro businesses use household services to dispose of and recycle their waste
The waste management industry employed 128,000 people and in 2010/11 generated a gross value added (GVA) of £7.5 billion

According to a study commissioned by BIS (Department for Business Innovations and Skills) in 2011, the waste management industry employed 128,000 people and in 2010/11 generated a gross value added (GVA) of £7.5 billion, of which waste collection is estimated to have accounted for 27%. The report concludes that the industry is expected to enjoy positive growth during the next few years. In times of austerity, many local authorities have identified this and seized the opportunity to use revenue from providing commercial waste services to offset those for their residents. Between 2007 and 2012 the number of local authorities offering a commercial residual waste collection service rose from 55% to 68%. Driven by a number of factors including cost, regulations and demand there has been a shift from waste management to resource recovery. Between 2007 and 2012 the proportion of authorities that offered a commercial residual waste and a recycling collection service rose from 40% to 72% and this trend is expected to continue.


This guide provides information for local authorities (and their private and third sector partners) on the key steps involved in developing, managing, expanding and optimising a commercial recycling collection scheme. It is of use to those authorities that are considering implementing a new service as well as those who currently offer a service and are seeking to improve their service in terms of operational efficiency or expanding the service either through increased customer participation or the variety of materials collected.

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Context – Needs and barriers

This chapter sets the context and provides the drivers for implementing and running a commercial recycling collection service. By the end of this stage in the service planning process you will understand:

  • What the drivers are for collecting commercial recycling;
  • Which key pieces of legislation are pertinent to your services;
  • What the barriers are for SMEs to recycle and how to design your service to overcome
  • them; and
  • What the scale of the market is.

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Scoping your service

This chapter will help you to determine what the scope of your service will be. By the end of this chapter you will understand:

  • What the benefits are of setting up a working group for your service development;
  • The scale of the UK waste market, the composition of waste arisings, how much is
  • being recycled and what services are currently provided by local authorities;
  • How to find out about and understand your customers’ needs;
  • What the opportunities and demands are for (new) services;
  • The types of materials available for collection and the sectors they arise in; and
  • The scope (size) of your service and the materials it will collect.

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Service planning and delivery

By the end of this chapter you will understand:

  • Options for service delivery including collection methods and resource requirements
  • Operational considerations including vehicle types, containers and associated
  • infrastructure/systems;
  • How to prevent and manage contamination;
  • Where to go for health and safety information; and
  • Considerations for the launch of the service

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Costs and income

This chapter covers the important issue of costs and income. By the end of this chapter you will understand:

  • What costs needs to be included;
  • What the potential charging mechanisms are;
  • How to maximise income; and
  • What key aspects should be included in contracts.

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Sales and marketing

This chapter focusses on the options available to promote your service and the relative merits of each of them. By the end of this chapter you will understand:

  • The different options for promoting your service and their relative impact and cost;
  • What tools are available to assist you;
  • Ideas for promoting the service to colleagues;
  • How to ensure that messaging on promotional material used is easy to understand and
  • engaging;
  • The key ingredients for service literature; and
  • How else you might support customers to reduce waste and recycle/re-use more

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Monitoring and improvement

This chapter of the guide looks at how your service is performing. By the end of this chapter you will understand:
  • Why it’s important to monitor and evaluate your service;
  • What and how to monitor; and
  • The importance of monitoring and evaluation to continuous improvement and developing
  • your service further.

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