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WRAP recently studied the potential of re-using bulky waste from households, the main aim of this study was to understand the composition of bulky waste and how they can be reused.


In order to identify the opportunity of reusing bulky items across the UK the composition of these items need to be understood, when referring to the composition it means the item type as well as the re-usability.

Three different research methods were therefore used in this project, involving analysis of:

  • Call centre logs for bulky waste kerbside collections
  • Local authority collected kerbside bulky items disposed or recycled at HWRCs or waste transfer stations, and
  • Household bulky items delivered to HWRC’s by individuals.

Primary target materials for WRAP are WEEE, textiles and furniture. However, this project recorded all bulky items regardless of whether it was a WRAP priority material or not. For the purposes of this study the legal definition1 of bulky waste was used.

The legal definition of bulky waste is: Any item which exceed 25kg in weight and/or any item which does not or cannot be fitted into a receptacle for household waste provided in accordance with section 46 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990; or where no such receptacle is provided, a cylindrical container 750 millimetres in diameter and 1 metre in length.

According to national estimates which were derived from WasteDataflow (WDF), it suggested that across the UK some 1, 590,000 tonnes of bulky waste was collected at the kerbside or taken to HWRCs during 2010/11.

Twice the amount is taken to HWRCs (1,050,000 tonnes) than the amount which is collected at the kerbside (540,000 tonnes).

By looking further into the data given above and also exploring the sample findings across all UK kerbside and HWRC bulky waste collections, it suggested that of all the bulky waste collected in the UK, around 42% (670,000 tonnes) consists of furniture, 19% (310,000 tonnes) of textiles and (310,000 tonnes) 19% WEEE

The main perception barrier to overcome is that these items are not no-longer fit for re-use when they are collected, there are those which are not, however, instead of it being a broad idea that they can no longer be used there is a strong potential that some can be.

The information in the report aims to educate re-use organisations, local authorities and waste management companies of the potential re-use of the items which are currently being recycled or disposed of completely.

After the composition of the waste was studied the report says that 36% of bulky items taken to the HWRC could be re-used instead of being recycled or disposed of.

Of the 36%, surveyors estimated that 32% of these bulky items could have been re-used in the current shape or form they were in this is more than the estimate by householders.

The amount of items which could be used in their current condition slightly increased to 51% if small repairs could be carried out on certain items. This therefore stated that over half of the items which were sent to householders could have been re-used; householders stated that nearly 80% of items were undamaged when they were transported from the home to the HWRC.

For any items which were collected via bulky waste collections, surveyors estimated that 24% of the items were re-useable and addition 16% of these items could undergo slight repairs.

Almost one quarter of WEEE and furniture collected at the kerbside are re-useable and most of these items are said to be in demand second-hand.

If you want to download the report, click here.



WRAP Composition of kerbside and HWRC bulky waste

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