How to start a waste and recycling business

Looking to set up a waste and recycling sector? Check out our step-by-step business guide here...

When thinking about how to start a recycling business or waste removal business, consider:

What is a waste and recycling business?

On the face of it, it doesn’t look like the best time to set up in the waste and recycling sector. Despite lots of green talk, local councils across the UK are stockpiling sorted household waste in warehouses. People are more environmentally aware than ever, but recycling companies are just sitting on their waste paper, scrap metal and plastic bottles. Not processing anything, mind, simply …waiting for the market to bounce.

The whole market for recycled output is in a state of flux. This is mostly because commodity prices have been bitten by the credit crunch: a sharp fall in demand from markets in the Far East has put a once booming sector in a tough spot.

Jason from, an eco-friendly waste removal company based in London, explains the situation: “When I started this business around four years ago, we were getting about £50 a ton for mixed metal. Up to around three or four months ago it was £200 a ton. And then not too long ago it was down to £5. Most people who don’t have large accounts and stuff were being paid nothing.”

So, from the perspective of a company involved in pure recycling, things are bad.

That’s not to say that it’s not a good time to start up in waste or recycling, however.

With governmental and Europe-led policies such as the Waste Framework Directive making green targets concrete, and pressure rising on commercial organisations to manage their waste responsibly, demand is set to grow in the waste and recycling sector. Even now, all boroughs are subject to considerable fines if they exceed their quota of waste sent to landfill and until very recently, such was the extent of demand that most of the waste collected for recycling was sent abroad for processing.

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But demand or none, times are tough: to be successful, you’ll probably have to be a bit inventive in the type of waste or recycling business you set up.

What is it?

In the start ups league, a recycling company is most likely to be either a service, collecting recyclable waste from businesses and consumers for instance; or a small scale niche processor, using recyclable and recycled material to make new products. As generally low income, high growth vehicles, start-ups aren’t all that suited to mainstream recycling. Setting up your own glass recycling plant backed by millions in debt is not really an option.

The waste and recycling sector is a broad one though, and there are lots of areas that remain unexploited — often because big recycling companies and waste management outfits believe the market value is too small. You could focus on collecting materials that are difficult to retrieve or tricky to recycle, like certain plastics, carpets, and synthetic fabrics. And there are many examples of small glass companies and recycling-focused companies that come up with innovative ways of using glass for instance.

Ready to get started? Find out everything you need to know about how to start your own business here.