Commercial Recycling: Guidance for Businesses

Your business has a legal obligation to dispose of waste properly and safely

Recycling will cut your company's costs and reduce its carbon footprint

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Recycling has been around for decades, but some businesses still don't have an effective recycling programme. With increasing pressures on businesses to go green, many companies are only just realising the importance of recycling.

This guide will introduce you to recycling, covering what materials you can recycle and how much it costs to dispose of them. We're also looking at how recycling can benefit your business and how to increase your recycling levels.

Alternatively, to start receiving free quotes for commercial waste management, fill out this quick form, and our suppliers will be in touch.

commercial recycling

In this Guide to Commercial Recycling:


What Can Your Business Recycle?

Recycling needn’t be difficult, but with businesses producing an overwhelming amount of waste everyday, it’s easy to see why some don’t bother recycling altogether. In fact, it’s been estimated that up to 60% of what goes into landfill every year can actually be recycled.

Most businesses should be able to recycle at least one type of waste, so it’s worth familiarising yourself with exactly what rubbish you produce so that you can start to reduce the amount that you send to landfill. Waste that is recyclable includes:

Cardboard and paper: cardboard and paper is probably one of the most popular items that can be recycled, given that the majority of businesses use it in some form or another. You can recycle things such as brochures, leaflets, envelopes, printer paper and cardboard boxes.

Food: all sorts of food waste is recyclable. This includes tea bags, ground coffee beans, plate scrapings, peelings, food scraps and out-of-date items. Liquid waste such as milk can’t be mixed with solid food waste however, as it can leak and create a mess. Your business could even grow its own food.

Glass: glass of all colours can be recycled, not just clear. This includes items such as bottles, jars, windows, light bulbs and cookware.

Metal: almost all metal is recyclable, including aluminium, cast iron, steel, copper and tin. Metal can often be recycled together, meaning you won’t need to separate it into its different types.

Plastic: nearly all businesses will produce some type of plastic waste. The majority of plastic can be recycled, such as bottles and packaging, but certain types cannot. This includes bubble wrap and polystyrene.

Wood: different types of wood can be recycled, whether timber, floorboards, pallets, chipboard, furniture or splintered parts.


5 Reasons Your Business Should Recycle

If your business isn’t recycling, you could be missing out on a number of benefits. And it’s not just about safeguarding the environment; your business can also prosper from reducing the amount of waste it dumps in landfill.

1. Financial growth. Increasing the amount of waste you recycle can decrease the amount you spend on waste management (more on this coming up). This can save your business a lot of money over time, and boost your profit.

2. Happy employees. A lot of your staff probably recycle at home, so there’s a good chance that many will want the ability to recycle their waste in the workplace. Installing recycling facilities in your business premises will likely boost their morale and make them more productive.

3. Improved reputation. Recycling as much of your business’ waste as possible will allow you to promote your company as being ‘green’ and eco-friendly. It’s likely that this will enable you to attract new clients, customers and employees who value businesses that take care of the environment.

4. Cheaper purchases. Recycling things such as batteries, ink cartridges and old equipment can mean you get a better deal on your new purchases. There are schemes in place that offer you a discount on the price of new supplies when you recycle your old ones.

5. Reduced carbon footprint. Landfilling your business’ waste contributes to global warming by releasing harmful greenhouse gases – methane and carbon dioxide – into the atmosphere. By recycling your waste, you’re diverting it away from landfill and helping to protect the future of the environment.


How to Sort, Store and Dispose of Commercial Recycling

Whether it’s cardboard boxes, plastic packaging or unwanted food scraps, your business has a legal responsibility to ensure that all of its recyclable waste is sorted, stored and disposed of correctly. Known as your Duty of Care, you must make sure that you:

• Separate it into different, clearly labelled bins (although you can sometimes store mixed, dry recyclable materials in one bin).

• Store it in appropriately sized containers in a secure location on your business premises.

• Use waterproof covers to keep it dry, and to stop light recyclable materials (e.g. cardboard and paper) from blowing away.

• Pass your recyclable waste onto a licensed waste carrier. A licensed waste carrier will have purchased a permit from the Environment Agency that allows them to legally transport recyclables from your business to another premises.

• Complete a waste transfer note (WTN) every time your recycling is removed from your business premises. A WTN is a legal document that outlines exactly what the recyclable material is so that it can be handled and disposed of correctly.

• Ensure your recyclable waste is disposed of at licensed waste disposal facility, such as a recycling plant or a composting site. Fly-tipping your recycling will result in a heavy fine (or even imprisonment).

To find out more about how to properly manage your business’ recycling waste, visit our guide to trade waste disposal regulations.


How Much Does It Cost to Recycle Business Waste?

It typically costs less to dispose of recyclable materials than it does to dispose of general waste, so by increasing the amount of waste that your business recycles, you could save a lot of money (and boost your profit).

Most businesses pay a waste management company to regularly collect and dispose of their recyclable waste for them. The table below gives you an idea of how much waste contractors will charge to collect your recycling once per week over a year. Prices vary depending on the size of the wheelie bin(s) your business has. Other costs will be added on top, including bin hire fees and a service charge.

Wheelie Bin Size


Weekly Collection Price

Annual Collection Price

120 litre
2 to 3 sacks

£1.05 to £2.50

£55 to £130

240 litre
3 to 5 sacks
£2.40 to £4.50
£125 to £234
360 litre
5 to 7 sacks

£3.20 to £7.05

£170 to £367

660 litre
10 to 12 sacks
£6.70 to £11.30
£350 to £588
1,100 litre
15 to 20 sacks

£11.15 to £13.60

£580 to £707

To really show you just how much recycling your business’ rubbish can save you, the table below compares the cost of collecting general waste against the cost of collecting recyclable materials over one year. To get a bespoke recycling quote for your business, fill in this simple form by answering a few basic questions about your business.

Wheelie Bin Size

Annual Waste Collection Price

Annual Recycling Collection Price

Annual Savings from Recycling

120 litre
£130 to £156

£55 to £130

£26 to £75

240 litre
£234 to £286
£125 to £234
£54 to £109
360 litre
£338 to £390

£170 to £367

£23 to £268

660 litre
£572 to £702
£350 to £588
£114 to £222
1,100 litre
£780 to £1,170

£580 to £707

£200 to £463

To find out more about how much it costs to dispose of your business’ waste, visit our guide to waste disposal prices.


Top 5 Commercial Recycling Companies in the UK

There are lots of waste management companies operating in the UK that specialise in collecting and disposing of recyclable materials, but which company should you work with? We’ve carried out an in-depth review of over 25 waste contractors to bring you a rundown of the 5 that we believe offer the best all-round service to their customers. The results are in the table below:


Recycling Waste Managed

Key Benefit

Our Score

Business Waste
Cardboard, Food, Glass, Mixed Recycling, Paper, Plastic
Helps you to achieve zero waste to landfill

Cardboard, Glass, Mixed Recycling
Bins delivered within 7 days of signing up
FCC Environment
Cardboard, Food, Glass, Mixed Recycling, Paper, Plastic
Answers 99.5% of of phone calls within 1 minute

Cardboard, Food, Glass, Metal, Mixed Recycling, Organic, Paper, Plastic, Wood
Offers flexible collection times to suit your changing business needs
The Waste Company
Cardboard, Food, Glass, Mixed Recycling, Organic, Paper, Plastic, Wood
Clear and transparent prices with no hidden charges

When deciding on which waste management company your business should work with to collect and dispose of its recycling, make sure you think about:

• What types of recyclable material your business produces and does a waste management company handle this type of waste?

• How much recyclable waste does your business produce and how often does it need collecting?

•Could you increase the amount of waste that your business recycles and do you need help from a waste management company to achieve this?

• What price have you been quoted and could you get a cheaper deal elsewhere?

• Does a waste management company have good customer service or has it received a lot of complaints?

Doing this will help you to find a waste management company that is right for your business. After all, you don’t want to get tied into a contract with a company that doesn’t offer the appropriate recycling services for your business.

To get the full lowdown on the leading waste contractors in the UK, visit our comparison on the top waste management companies for your business.


5 Tips to Increase the Amount of Waste Your Business Recycles

commercial recycling bin

1. Get employees involved. Your business will be able to recycle a lot more of its waste if your employees are onboard with your recycling initiatives. Find out how your staff want to get more involved; you might find that some employees want to start a recycling committee or be a recycling ambassador for the business.

2. Educate. Some employees don’t understand the benefits of recycling at work. Make sure that you clearly explain how recycling waste can save money, reduce the company’s impact on the environment and allow the business to promote itself as eco-friendly. Doing this will help your staff to grasp the importance of recycling their waste.

3. Set ambitious recycling targets. Ultimately people are reward-driven, so it makes sense to offer incentives to employees if they recycle. By setting an ambitious recycling target with the promise of a reward if it is met (e.g. a staff social), your employees will be motivated to recycle their waste.

4. Place recycling bins around the workplace. Place clearly labelled recycling bins in strategic places around the workplace, such as in the staff canteen or next to the printers. This will remind your employees to put recyclable waste such as paper and food scraps into the correct bin.

5. Buy recyclable goods. Whatever industry you’re in, make a conscious effort to buy as many goods made from recyclable materials as possible. Think about swapping polystyrene packaging for cardboard packaging, or buying water bottles made from recycled plastic. This will help to maximise the amount of raw material that your business can recycle.


What now?

That's a wrap! Your next step is to find out how much responsible trade waste disposal will cost you. Just pop your details in here and our trusted suppliers will contact you.

Fran Whittaker-Wood
Fran Whittaker-Wood Editor

Fran is The Eco Experts’ resident solar panel and double glazing oracle She loves orangutans and is passionate about protecting the planet’s rainforests from the unsustainable production of palm oil. And minstrels.

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