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  • Lisa Gardener

How to dispose of waste on your build

Options for removal

Taking actions to reduce the amount of waste that your build generates by selling or recycling as much as possible can cut the total volume by as much as a third, often equivalent to a couple of skips' worth. Not only should this save you a few hundred pounds, it will also instantly promote you to the ecological moral high ground. Nonetheless, you will still normally need to dispose of a sizeable amount of waste, in which case it's a matter of deciding which option would work best:

  • Skip bags

Skip bags are similar to the jumbo bags of gravel that you can get delivered from builders' merchants and DIY stores, only here it works the other way round, starting with an empty bag that's later taken away when full. Buying skip bags is simplicity itself, either online or at a DIY store and you can keep them as long as necessary. Once full, a collection can normally be arranged within five working days. The best known supplier is HIPPO and the largest size skip bags (with a capacity of four and six cubic yards which cost around £210 and £265 respectively).

Although bags can hold a similar volume to smaller skips, their weight limit of about 1.5 tonnes restricts heavier loads like spoil and rubble. Where they really score is in terms of convenience, being ideally suited for building works on smaller plots with limited access. Collection via trucks with on-board hiab cranes that can lift the bags over walls and fences within four metres of the kerb.

  • Skip hire

Skips are the go-to solution for most builders. To make life more interesting, sizes are quoted in good old-fashioned cubic yards. The most popular sizes for small building projects are six cubic yards and eight cubic yards which hold the equivalent of around 60 and 80 black bin bags respectively. Prices typically range from £200 for a four cubic yard skip to nearly £300 for one twice that size. Much larger sizes are also available, including massive 18 cubic yard skips, and gargantuan roll-on roll-off skips of up to 40 cubic yards.

When booking you need to tell the hire company how long you want yours left on site for - this will normally be up to a fortnight but longer periods can be negotiated. Allow a couple of days' notice for delivery and up to a week for collection depending on how busy the skip hire firms are. Before ordering, it's a good idea to plan exactly where you want to accommodate your skip, so that hopefully your builders, and the postman, can still squeeze past. if your driveway is restricted, then any grass verges bordering the road may be an option, subject to obtaining permission from the local authority. Skips parked on the road require a permit which the hire company should be able to arrange for you. Be aware, however, that it's not unknown for skips left unguarded overnight on city streets to mysteriously fill up.

To ensure that everything goes smoothly there are a number of rules you need to follow with skips. First, don't overfill them. If you pile too much stuff on top, the driver may refuse point blank to take anything but a level load on grounds of safety. Although the contents are covered with tarpaulin netting, this has its limits. There is however an art to packing skips, and lining the sides with old doors and sheets of wood so that the contents are secure creates a little more cubic capacity.

When you book a skip you will normally be advised that certain materials and objects are prohibited. These usually include asbestos, chemicals, liquid paints, oils and solvents, tyres, fridges and electronics. Plasterboard is generally discouraged because the gypsum it's made from contains high levels of sulphates which can emit poisonous hydrogen sulphide in landfill. However, it is occasionally accepted as long as it's dry and separate from other waste. You may also be quizzed about quantities of heavier waste like soil and rubble, which may be limited to maximum eight cubic yard skips.

  • Grab lorries

For larger scale building works, particularly for foundation excavation and demolition, grab lorries can be a more cost-effective alternative to skips. An eight-wheeler can take the equivalent of around three skip loads with prices starting from around £300. They also take much of the hard work out of rubbish removal. Rather than having to laboriously load a skip, a grab lorry's hydraulically operated extending crane can do it for you, scooping it up and depositing it straight onto the truck. And with a reach of around eight metres they should be able to pick up waste over most walls and fences.

  • Council tips

In recent years, council household waste recycling centres have increasingly restricted the amount of building waste that you're allowed to tip free of charge. This is linked to the fact that local authorities have to pay landfill tax so they're incentivised to get you to recycle as much of your waste as possible.

Generally speaking, anything deemed to be "construction waste" arriving in a van, pick-up or trailer is likely to be redirected to a waste transfer station where the waste will be weighed and charged. The precise definitions and rules vary from one council to another, but trying to get around this by making multiple car visits can backfire if the number of visits and the amount of waste being deposited is deemed excessive.

Even when you turn up on your own car, most waste from construction work, including home DIY projects, may be chargeable if it's not classified as "household waste". Some rules can appear a little odd, for example basins, WC pans and toilet cisterns might be chargeable, whereas baths sometimes are not.

Charges also vary quite considerably. Some tips charge as little as £1.50 to dispose of a single WC pan, compared to others that charge more than £10 for the same service. So, it's always worth checking if and how much your local council tip charges for construction waste before you head down there.


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