Commercial garden waste disposal

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Commercial garden waste management

Businesses, NGOs, and public institutions with green areas on their premises generate a wide range of garden waste every time these are maintained. This includes grass clippings, branches, and even the fallen leaves of the office bonsai.

However, many remain unsure about its proper garden waste management and disposal. Some end up paying others to discard perfectly reusable plant matter, while others inadvertently mix it with unsuitable items like large logs, treated wood, or hard-to-compost foods.

In this guide, we explain what exactly garden waste is, why disposing of it makes little sense for most, and how managing it in compliance with commercial waste regulations is, in fact, a no-brainer.

How to dispose of commercial garden waste

Our guide to commercial garden waste walks through the following step-by-step questions to help you determine the best way to dispose of your commercial garden waste:

  1. What is and what isn’t garden waste?
  2. How much garden waste do you generate?
  3. What garden waste collection services are available?

What qualifies as garden waste?

Not all organic matter from your green spaces is considered commercial garden waste.

Here’s what is typically allowed and not allowed in this waste stream:

Typical garden waste

Garden debris

Garden debris

Fallen leaves, branches, twigs, trimmings, prunings, roots, bark, wood chips, small amounts of soil, weeds, flowers, grass clippings, fallen fruits, thinned vegetables, etc.

Includes any plant matter from any green areas generated through maintenance activities or the plants’ natural life cycle.

Compostable kitchen waste

Compostable kitchen waste

Raw fruit and veggies like banana skins, potato peels, spoiled tomatoes, mouldy apples, bruied lettuces, etc.

Only applicable when garden and compostable kitchen waste are co-mingled as ‘organic waste’.



Tree surgeon sawdust, sawmill waste.

Sawdust derived from untreated wood only, so excludes sawdust from deck planks, fence poles, garden furniture, wood pallets, etc.

Small christmas trees

Small christmas trees

Norweigen Spruce, Nordmann Fir, etc.

Small Christmas trees used in offices or workplaces can be sawed and discarded within garden waste, as long as they fit in the bins.

Pet bedding

Pet bedding

Hay or straw in small amounts.

Typically sourced when rabbits or chickens are kept as office pets in hutches or coops. Larger amounts would need to be disposed of with agricultural waste.

Non-garden waste

These waste types are often mistakenly disposed of together with garden waste but should be handled separately.

Plastic garden waste bags

Plastic garden waste bags

Black bin bags, large sacks.

Plastic bags used for collecting garden debris during garden maintenance and landscaping may be inadvertently disposed of in the garden waste bin. Plastic bags do not decompose and should be removed.

Non-organic waste

Non-organic waste

Rubber bands, plastic tags, metal stakes, broken ceramics, plant pots, buckets.

Inorganic items that are commonly found in gardens can be accidentally mixed in when collecting garden waste.

Large garden waste

Large garden waste

Large branches and logs.

Garden waste recycling centres are typically unequipped to handle larger wood fragments, especially those produced from tree removals or major pruning. These should be treated as wood waste and collected separately.



Large rocks, stones and pebbles.

These non-organics are easy to inadvertently mix, especially after activities like digging. Rocks can be a hazard for the garden waste processing facility’s machinery.

Treated wood

Treated wood

Varnished, treated or painted wood.

These primarily organic materials may contain chemicals that are harmful to the environment and should be disposed of as wood waste or in accordance with local regulations.

Some kitchen waste

Some kitchen waste

Processed foods, cooked foods, meats.

Kitchen waste that does not compost easily or attracts vermin should never be included with garden waste. Any kitchen waste should remain separate unless your local council co-mingles the collection of ‘organic waste’.

Estimating your commercial garden waste

The amount of commercial garden waste your business generates will primarily depend on the size of your green areas, how often you maintain them, and whether you recycle or compost your waste on your property.

Here’s a summary, along with rough volume estimation figures:

Lawn sizeLarger lawns will yield more glass clippings, especially in spring.

0.5 to 2 L of grass clippings per square meter of lawn after mowing
Plant densityThe denser (wilder!) your garden, the more biomass it generates.

Hedge: 1 - 2 L of branches and leaves per square meter of hedge after pruning.

Trees: 1 - 10 L of fallen leaves per tree per week in autumn.
Trees: 20 - 100 L of branches per tree per yearly prune.
Plant types & seasonalityDifferent plants produce varying amounts of waste, e.g. deciduous trees can shed a significant amount of leaves in autumn.
Maintenance frequencyRegular maintenance, including mowing, trimming, and pruning will result in more frequent, yet more constant garden waste volumes
CompostingIf you actively compost garden waste or recycle it through other means (e.g. mulching), you will generate less waste overall.

Example of a garden waste volume estimation

Let’s assume your business property has a small garden of 10m x 10m, 2 medium-sized trees, 5m2 of hedge, and 60m2 of lawn.

Using the figures from the table, your business’s garden will generate at its peak in autumn:

  • Lawn clippings: 60 x 1 = 60 litres
  • Hedge prunings: 5 x 2 = 10 litres
  • Fallen leaves from its trees: 2 x 20 = 40 litres
  • Branches from its tree pruning: 2 x 50 = 100 litres

This equates to 210 litres of uncompressed, unshredded garden waste. Assuming that compressing and shredding any prunings reduces the volume by 30%, this equates to about 150 litres of garden waste, enough to fit in a standard wheelie bin.

Note that this estimation assumes no composting or recycling, which would substantially reduce these volumes.

Third-party garden maintenance

Estimating garden waste volumes becomes unnecessary when garden maintenance is outsourced to a landscaping business. They typically include garden waste management as part of their service or recommend a bin size based on local council practices.

💡 Landscaping businesses: We understand that tree surgeons, gardeners, and landscape architects are skilled at estimating garden waste volumes. Nevertheless, they can still benefit from comparing commercial garden waste bin quotes.

Commercial garden waste disposal options

Here are your options for commercial garden waste disposal, in order of priority as per the garden waste hierarchy:

1. Recycling your garden waste

Grass clippings and shredded branches and twigs can be used as mulch, protecting your soil from erosion and reducing the amount of weeds. Branches can be recycled into supports for plants, such as tomatoes.

2. Composting your garden waste

If your business has the means to compost your garden waste on-site, it’s a recommended practice. Not only will you receive a free source of nutrient-rich soil amendment, but you will also save on commercial waste collection costs.

💡 Local rules: It’s important to check with your local council regarding composting regulations, as it can be troublesome if done incorrectly.

3. Landscape contractor disposal

Businesses that contract landscaping or gardening services typically have waste management included in their service agreements. They will collect and dispose of garden waste as part of their maintenance services; your business simply needs to ensure that they have the appropriate licensing.

4. Garden waste collection

Having exhausted all other garden waste management options, it’s up to your business to arrange for garden waste collection. Start by simply entering your postcode below, and our waste experts can help you find the cheapest prices.

💡 Council-run or private: In many cases (especially in England), local councils allow public and private waste collection contractors to operate side-by-side. If so, you can compare commercial waste collection quotes to find the most cost-effective and convenient option.

Garden waste collection contractors

Your business can choose from various commercial waste quotes from vetted contractors. These will include service agreements, fees, commercial bin rental and potentially a free commercial waste audit upon signup.

Local council collection

In certain areas (especially in Wales and Scotland), local councils provide garden waste collection services for both businesses and households, providing dedicated bins or containers and waste collection occurring on designated collection days

💡 Not mutually exclusive: If your business finds the local council collection services insufficient for its needs or requires ad-hoc appointments, it’s possible to complement this service with private commercial waste collection.


Top reasons to use a commercial garden waste collection service

Ensures compliance

Ensures compliance

Following the waste hierarchy in managing your garden waste will ensure your business’s compliance. This involves reducing your waste, recycling it within your property, or arranging for its separate collection in that order.

Reduces emissions

Reduces emissions

When garden waste is recycled as mulch or soil amendment, or when it’s collected separately for municipal composting, your business avoids its disposal in landfills, thereby reducing methane emissions.

Corporate responsibility

Corporate responsibility

Businesses that avoid sending their garden waste to landfill demonstrate environmental responsibility, enhancing their public image, appeal to eco-conscious consumers, and even attract young talent for employment.

Healthy green spaces

Healthy green spaces

By directly composting your garden waste, you will be providing your plants with nutrient-rich, non-contaminated soil amendments of known origin, which are in turn healthy for your staff.

Reduces landfill tax

Reduces landfill tax

By recycling, composting, or appropriately disposing of your garden waste, your business will reduce its landfill tax liabilities, which are calculated based on the volume sent to landfill.

Generates green jobs

Generates green jobs

Recycling or composting your own garden waste requires trained professionals, and increasing the volume of garden waste sent for municipal composting requires skilled employees.

Circular economy

Circular economy

By recycling or composting your garden waste, essential organic materials and carbon remain in the natural environment. The same happens to money, which remains to pay for sustainable services.

Understanding commercial garden waste disposal

Here’s what you need to know about managing the waste generated from your business’s green areas:

What is commercial garden waste disposal?

Commercial garden waste disposal refers to the process of ‘getting rid’ of the naturally-ocurring organic matter generated from your business’s green areas. It involves keeping it separate from residential streams, following the garden waste hierarchy, and understanding its place within the larger Biodegradable Municipal Waste (BMW) stream.

💡 What it isn’t: Contrary to popular belief, garden waste disposal does not involve tossing all your grass clippings, branches, leaves, and other organics generated in your premises into the nearest skip.

It’s separate from domestic waste

UK waste regulations require businesses, NGOs, and public organisations to dispose of their waste separately from domestic waste. This means you must either reuse it within your own property or arrange for its separate collection.

💡 Exceptions: Some local councils have their own collection services and choose to co-mingle business and domestic waste together. Find out the situation in your area on our locations page.

The garden waste hierarchy

When managing commercial garden waste, the waste hierarchy dictates the following order of priority (from highest to lowest):

  1. Minimisation: Having wilder green spaces that require less maintenance.
  2. Recycling: Utilising grass clippings as mulch or in-situ composting.
  3. Separate collection: Collection from local council, private collection contractor or landscaping business.
  4. Disposal: Only to be considered as a last resort, as the garden waste would end up in landfill or burnt at the incinerator.

It’s a part of Biodegradable Municipal Waste (BMW)

Garden waste is a subset of a larger group of organic wastes known as BMWs, which includes commercial food waste and commercial cardboard waste.

While garden waste can be recycled on its own to create natural products such as mulch, sawdust, and lightweight soil amendments, it can be recycled into more comprehensive products like natural fertilisers and even biofuels when combined with other types of organic waste.

See our list of typical garden wastes for more information.

What are your commercial garden waste responsibilities?

Every business in the UK has a legal duty of care over their garden waste. This involves:

  1. Following the garden waste hierarchy
  2. Ensuring any commercial waste collection contractors hold the appropriate licenses.
  3. Keeping your waste separate from the domestic garden waste stream.
  4. Signing and keeping copies of any Waste Transfer Notes.
  5. Contacting your council to understand any specific nuances in local compliance.

💡 No minimum volumes: The regulations are not explicit about a minimum threshold of garden waste for mandatory separate collection. This is left to the discretion of the council and regulators. For example, small offices with a handful of plant pots are unlikely to be prosecuted for disposing of their minimal garden waste in general bins.

Where does commercial garden waste go?

When your council, landscape contractor or waste collection service collects your garden waste, they typically transport it to a nearby biodegradable municipal waste (BMW) processing facility. Here’s what happens to it:

1. Reception, inspection and categorisation

Upon reception at the facility, the garden waste undergoes inspection for contaminants or prohibited materials as indicated in the waste transfer note.

It is then stored separately from other received organic waste streams such as food, cardboard, wood, organic textiles, and agricultural waste.

2. Shredding

The garden waste typically undergoes shredding to break it down into smaller pieces that are easier to decompose in subsequent composting.

3. Composting

The shredded material is composted by mixing it with other organic materials such as food waste, spoilt cardboard, spent coffee grounds and wood chips. This controlled decomposition process involves microorganisms breaking down the organic matter, resulting in the production of nutrient-rich compost or soil amendment.

4. Curing and maturation

Once broken down into what looks like a soil amendment, a curing and maturation process is required to ensure the material is completely decomposed and free from pathogens and weed seeds.

5. QC, packaging and distribution

In this final stage, the compost is tested for its quality, packaged and distributed. It may be purchased by local councils, landscaping companies, nurseries, or garden centres for use as soil conditioner or mulch.

Commercial garden waste disposal – FAQs

Our business waste experts answer those commonly asked questions about garden waste disposal by businesses.

How often is commercial garden waste collected?

Collection frequency will vary by location and service provider (i.e. your local council, private collection contractor, or landscaping contractor).

Options include weekly, seasonal or ad-hoc collections, depending on your business needs.

See our section on waste disposal options for more information.

Can businesses compost garden waste on-site?

Certainly! Not only is this a cheaper option, but it is a preferred waste management strategy according to the the garden waste hierarchy.

Just bear in mind that you will need to comply with devolved and local regulations, so it’s best to contact your local council for guidance.

What is the cost of commercial garden waste collection?

The cost will vary by location, service provider and the volume of waste generated. Your easiest option is to get a range of commercial waste quotes from vetted collection companies that operate in your local area.

Use our garden waste volume estimation guidance to do this yourself.