Waste disposal in retail

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Waste disposal in shops

Shops inevitably process large volumes of packaging waste that comes with stock deliveries. Managing this waste through effective recycling will minimise the environmental consequences of the retail supply chain in the UK, but will also help avoid unnecessary expenditure on commercial waste collections.



Waste management in retail

Like all businesses, shops and other retail outlets in the UK are legally required to adhere to the waste hierarchy: prevention, preparation for re-use, recycling, other recovery, and disposal.

Here is a summary of how DEFRA’s latest guidance on applying the Waste Hierarchy applies to the retail sector:


Most of the waste produced in retail comes from the packaging of stock purchases. Smaller retailers may find it difficult to exert any meaningful pressure on suppliers to reduce the cardboard and plastics associated with their goods. However, it is possible to consider suppliers adopting eco-friendly packaging in stock purchasing decisions. This can include the use of compostable materials and a preference for plastic-free packaging where this is possible. The Forest Stewardship Council offers accreditation to certify that packaging has been responsibly sourced and sensitively processed.

Prepare for reuse

It’s typical for shops to find that some stock items are not in a suitable condition for sale. Examples include unsold or end-of-line clothing, returned items, or display pieces. You can choose to support your community by donating these items, rather than having to pay for their recycling or disposal in landfill.


Most of the packaging waste used in retail supply chains can be recycled. Shops can maximise this recycling by efficiently segregating different waste categories in the stock room. Clear labelling of commercial waste bins will help your staff recycle effectively and avoid cross-contamination. Regularly scheduled commercial recycling collections will ensure that the storage of recyclable goods doesn’t take up too much space.

Other recovery

Energy can be recovered from any food stock past its sell-by date or has suffered spoilage through anaerobic digestion or composting. You may find opportunities to contribute to community composting projects in some regions. Alternatively, your waste disposal provider is typically best placed to transport your commercial food waste to a local anaerobic digestion facility.


Even when following best practices for waste management at your shop, you will still need to dispose of various types of waste. A reputable waste collection company will provide appropriate bins to store your waste before their regular collections. Your provider will issue a waste transfer note to demonstrate that you have fulfilled your compliance obligations in disposing of the waste produced by your business.

Discover lower commercial waste collection costs by requesting commercial waste collection today. Begin by simply entering your postcode into our smart address finder.

Types of waste disposal in retail

Here are the top six types of waste disposal typical to the retail industry. To comply with the duty of Care regulations each of these waste categories must be stored separately to avoid contamination with other waste types.



Deliveries of inventory are typically protected by a sturdy layer of cardboard to protect them against damage during transportation and storage. The use of cardboard is so prolific in retail that we’ve prepared an entire section on efficiently storing packaging below.



Within the outer cardboard layer, inventory packages will be further protected from damage with layers of bubble wrap, air pillows, and shrink wrap. Environmentally conscious shops will separately store and recycle these large volumes of plastic.



Shops selling perishable food goods will need to dispose of items that have reached their sell-by dates, or items that are unsellable due to breakage or spoilage. It’s possible to donate some items to local charities; the remaining will require specialist food waste collections.



Out-of-season ranges and irregular items in a clothes shop will require disposal. Some outlets achieve this by selling to discount retailers, while others opt for direct donations to charities. Alternatively, your commercial waste provider can arrange a one-off pick-up of textiles for recycling.



The retail industry creates wooden material waste from the pallets and crates received from deliveries, as well as the replacement of fixtures and fittings. Recycling commercial garden waste separately will reduce collection costs compared to including it within your general waste.

<h3>General waste</h3>

General waste

Broken or unsalvageable stock items, where recycling is impossible, as well as the contents of customer bins, will require disposal as general waste. Although the production of general waste in retail is inevitable, managers should seek to minimise the amount they send to landfill.

Managing packaging waste in retail

Despite specific government regulations for packaging producers to minimise packaging around products, shop owners will commonly find themselves inundated with pallets and cardboard that are used to protect their inventory while in transit. This can cause a real headache for shop owners who have only limited space to deal with these items.

Our business waste experts provide a summary of best practices to ensure these items are efficiently stored and prepared for commercial recycling.


Pallets are commonly used in the logistics and supply chain processes used to deliver large quantities of inventory in UK retail. Pallets allow delivery firms to consolidate many items into one standardised, manageable unit that can be moved and unloaded with a forklift. Pallets also reduce the risk of damage to your goods by keeping them off the ground

If your shop finds that unwanted pallets are accumulating and taking up precious space in your stockroom, consider one of the following steps to responsibly dispose of your pallets:

  • Create a pallet display – Consider utilising your pallets as an additional customer display with large quantities of stackable items such as tin cans.
  • Local pallet collection services – In certain areas, you’ll find specialised pallet collection services can remove your unwanted pallets, often for free.
  • Wood recycling Commercial waste disposal firms are on hand to arrange one-off collection of pallets and other wood items for recycling.

Source: Associated pallets – how to get rid of unwanted wooden pallets


We’ve all experienced trying to jam cardboard packaging into the blue recycling bin at home. Cardboard is a great packaging material for protecting your company’s goods while in transit, but it doesn’t easily compress itself for storage.

The ideal solution for shops is investing in a cardboard baler. A cardboard baler compresses and bundles cardboard into compact, manageable bales. A baler will significantly reduce the amount of stockroom space required for the storage of commercial cardboard recycling.

An alternative solution is to increase the regularity of your commercial waste collections so that the stored cardboard takes up less space in your stockroom.