Business Recycling: How to Manage Your Commercial Waste Responsibly

Colour-coded business recycling containers

Recycling: the data’s in, and it doesn’t reflect well on UK businesses.

Recent studies suggest that not only does a whole quarter of England’s entire waste output come from enterprise organisations, but as many as nine in ten businesses don’t have a green policy in place.

Yet it’s difficult to see why UK companies are dragging their heels here. Commercial recycling has so many benefits, ranging all the way from the noble (the planet, boosting employee morale) to the downright self-serving (saving you lots of money, and improving public perceptions of your business).

So read on to find out how to handle your business’s recycling, and learn more about the types of waste you can recycle in the UK.

We’ll also shine the spotlight on one of the country’s leading providers of affordable waste management services, and you’ll be able to compare commercial recycling quotes that are tailored to your business, too.

How to handle my business’s recycling

Did You Know?

It’s over 30% cheaper to recycle than it is to create general waste.

The business case for recycling is obvious – with landfill taxes rising year on year, straight up waste disposal isn’t all that cheap anymore. Plus, the cultural, environmental, and hygiene advantages of commercial recycling all speak for themselves.

So just how do you handle your business’s recycling?

Basically, your options boil down to either doing it yourself, or outsourcing it to a third party company. If you’re keen on the latter, we’d recommend exploring our guide to the best waste management companies in the UK. Or, you can skip to our top business recycling company recommendation below.

But more on that soon.

If the DIY route is more your thing, stay put – because it’s time to talk about waste transfer licences.

1. Get a waste transfer licence

Firstly, any form of commercial waste disposal – whether that’s recyclables, confidential documents, or general rubbish – doesn’t come free.

If you:

  • Transport waste (a carrier)
  • Buy, sell, or dispose of waste (a dealer)
  • Arrange for someone else to buy, sell, or dispose of waste (a broker)

… then you need a waste transfer licence. This applies to not just regular waste, but recycling, too.

Failure to register as either a waste carrier, dealer, or broker can result in fines of up to £5,000. Plus, disposing of your business’s rubbish without this licence constitutes fly tipping – an act which can land you with a fine of up to £50,000, or an unwanted shoutout in the local paper.

If you plan on keeping your business’s recycling in-house, you’ll need to register as a waste carrier. This costs £154 to do.

Licences are also divided into upper and lower tiers. If your business’s recycling responsibilities fall into the former category, you’ll need to renew your registration every three years, at the cost of £105.

You’d better make sure all the details on your application are correct before you submit them, too – updating them after the fact will cost you an extra £40!

2. Separate your recycling from your general waste

Now your licence is sorted, it’s time to start recycling. But to do that, you’ll need to make it as easy as possible for you and your staff to segregate recyclable materials from the regular old rubbish.

By far the most straightforward way of doing this is to use colour-coded bins.

Colour-coded business recycling containers

Colour-coded bins help you keep rubbish out of the recycling (and vice versa), and make it simple for your staff to get on board with.

They’ll also help you separate out the different types of recyclable materials, allowing you to keep your dry mixed recycling away from the glass.

We’d also recommend removing personal employee bins, and placing recycling containers in strategic points around your building. Locating the paper box next to the printer, for instance, is a match made in sustainability heaven.

You can also implement a mini recycling rewards scheme, to incentivise your staff to cut out old, lazy habits.

3. Reduce and reuse

Okay, so recycling gets most of the plaudits. But what about the other two ‘R’s’? Don’t they deserve a little love?

As a matter of fact, they do. Reducing and reusing are really the foundations for any successful recycling policy, and are even baked into the Environment Protection Act’s waste management hierarchy.

Infographic visualising waste hierarchy

A couple of ways you can apply these principles at work are:

  • Reducing the amount of rubbish you produce. This includes getting rid of cheap, single-use plastic (straws, we’re looking at you!), and, if necessary, modifying some of your existing admin processes. Laminated paper, for instance, can’t be recycled – can your business do without?
  • Reusing items you no longer need in fun, creative ways. Whether that’s keeping misprints to use as scrap paper, or re-employing an empty glass jar as a plant pot, try to regularly engage your staff in your sustainability efforts.

For more tips on how to achieve this, check out our guide to reducing plastic pollution at work.

What type of waste can I recycle?

The type of waste you can recycle at your business is divided into two main categories; dry mixed recycling, and glass.

You can also secure special arrangements to recycle textiles, wood, inert waste (such as bricks), and WEEE (waste electrical and electronic equipment).

Dry mixed recycling

✔ This includes:

  • Paper
  • Cardboard
  • Tins
  • Plastic bottles
  • Cans

This does not include:

  • Glass
  • Black refuse bags
  • Wood
  • Waxed paper cups
  • Liquids
  • Textiles
  • Polystyrene
  • Food waste


Glass bottles aren’t only good for holding refreshing beverages. They’re great for the economy, too – if you recycle, that is. Research estimates that, for every 100,000 tonnes of glass recycled, 500 jobs are created.

Moral of the story: recycle your glass!

These are the types of recycling available to UK businesses. For the types of waste removal, see our separate article.

The best companies for business recycling

Chosen to outsource the handling of your business’s recycling? You’ve made a good choice… a really good choice.

Firstly, you won’t have to deal with the expense – or the hassle – of acquiring a waste transfer licence. Secondly, when you sign up with a waste management provider, they’ll provide your bins for you. Thirdly? Well, you’ll get not only your business’s recycling sorted, but your rubbish, too.

This allows you to satisfy your business’s Duty of Care (as described in Section 34 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990), as well as fulfil your moral and spiritual obligations to the planet.

Plus, there are plenty of options to choose from when it comes to outsourcing your business’s recycling and waste management. You’ve probably already heard of the ‘Big Five’, after all – a kind of cabal of the industry’s biggest suppliers, which includes names such as Biffa and Veolia.

But, while these huge, transnational service providers have a monopoly over recycling collection services in the UK, our top pick is a company with a more homegrown flavour. Introducing…


WasteManaged provides glass collection and dry mixed recycling services to UK businesses. On top of that, its rubbish disposal services are also pretty fab, with food waste, skip hire, and confidential waste disposal all available. The company now operates using a fixed-fee policy, so you’ll know how much you can expect to pay.

Compare quotes from commercial recycling providers

There’s no easier way to say it. Outsourcing to a waste management company just makes things easier.

The process of obtaining accurate quotes for your business, though – and comparing multiple suppliers accordingly – isn’t so simple. Trawling the net for opaque pricing info, wading through a sea of open tabs, braving the brain-numbing, repetitive drone of on hold ‘music’… who’s got the patience for that?

Not us. That’s why we came up with a better way to get quick quotes from leading companies. Keen to try it out?

Simply provide us with a few details about your business by answering the first question of our quote-finding quiz below. It’ll only take about 30 seconds, and it’s designed to give us a better idea of your requirements.

Understanding exactly what you’re looking for in terms of a business recycling solution helps us to help you. Our algorithm will only match you with the waste and recycling collection suppliers that are the right fit for your business, to save our time – and yours.

These suppliers will then be in touch to provide quotes and advice that are all completely tailored to your requirements.

And the best part? It’s free – you just have to be based in the UK to be eligible.

Happy researching!

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Written by:
Rob Binns
Rob writes mainly about the payments industry, but also brings to the table industry-specific knowledge of CRM software, business loans, fulfilment, and invoice finance. When not exasperating his editor with bad puns, he can be found relaxing in a sunny (socially-distanced) corner, with a beer and a battered copy of Dostoevsky.
Reviewed by:
Heleana Neil, Business Services editor
Heleana Neil specialises in Business Services, managing the strategy and production of content for SMBs, helping businesses with the challenges and opportunities they face today. Covering everything from payroll to payment processing, Heleana uses her expertise to help business owners make better, informed decisions and grow their companies.