Home Features Enviroman How to begin a skip hire business by Enviroman Marco Muia

How to begin a skip hire business by Enviroman Marco Muia


‘I spend much of my column space preaching to the converted about compliance issues. By this I mean those of you who are already up and running, and have been for many years,’ says Enviroman Marco Muia.

Our magazine often receives enquiries from people wanting to start up in the industry. Some of them, after speaking to their waste mates, say: “It can’t be all that bad can it?”

So here goes with some action points for new starters in the waste game. The list could be much bigger, but space is limited and I’ve tried to focus on those who already collect waste – but want to run their own site.

Visit Existing operators

Go and have a chat with someone else in the business, who is far enough away from you to not be a competitor. Offer to help out for a week or more – free labour for free advice seems like a fair exchange.

That way you’ll get a warts and all view of the way the industry works, and be able to accurately research the costs and legal requirements.

You will already know how many skips you can manage in a week, but does income from sorting the waste into separate streams provide enough to make the site profitable?

Try and visit a few sites with fleets of a similar size to your business, even if you have a single vehicle.

You will also learn about compliance with environmental legislation, which is daunting at the best of times. Knowing what paperwork is required is important, as many sites fail on this relatively simple issue.


Marco Muia BSc (Hons) MSc MCIWM, Director of Oaktree Environmental Limited

Can you make the site pay? The old saying “Turnover is vanity, profit is sanity” has got to be your company motto from day one.

Prepare a business plan even if you don’t have to go to the bank or other finance outfit for a loan or lease. It doesn’t have to be complex, and you can prepare a simple spreadsheet or list.

If you have someone close to you who can use Excel, then great.

They could set up a sheet which allows you to experiment with costs more easily.

Break everything down into the total cost per week, and look at how many skips you need to hire to break even. Also assume you will make nothing from the waste recovered, which is a worst case scenario.

This may sound over simplified, but it avoids starting up in an area where land is cheap, but competition is fierce.

How many third party sites will you require where you can tip waste – and what do you do if they are closed?

Where is the nearest landfill? Not to mention the pitfalls involved with site selection, which we’ve covered several times before in the magazine.

A summary of the items to consider in your plan:

Fixed costs: e.g. yard rental, business rates, public and employer’s liability insurance, plant and vehicle lease costs. Office portacabins, equipment and computers.

Variable costs: e.g. utilities, phones, support services, marketing, wages and national insurance (office staff, yard staff, drivers, plant operators), office costs, fuel for plant and vehicles, third party tipping costs, maintenance costs for plant, vehicles and equipment, disposal and recycling costs.

None of the above makes any sense unless you have a site to start with, and an idea of the site design. Even a very simple sorting operation will need infrastructure such as bays, drainage, secure perimeter etc. All of which adds to the costs in the business plan.

Check out the locality. Industrial land base is shrinking, and houses are being built ever closer to industry – making control of noise more of an issue that it would normally be in industrial areas. Check nearby premises that could be sensitive to potential ‘bad neighbour’ activity.

Waste sites almost always need planning consent to operate. Contact your local council to check how a planning application would be received. Most councils have a pre-application form to enable you to do this (a fee will usually be payable).

Essential Business plan

Contact your environmental regulator (EA, NRW, SEPA or NIEA) to discuss a permit for the site, unless you can benefit from waste exemptions. The exemptions are limited, and normally geared around waste that has already been separated, such as cardboard or plastics.

The regulator may wish to see a business plan when assessing your permit application. You will also need to have a technically competent manager to be able to operate the site.

I know I’ve skimmed over the subject, but the bottom line is just that, making the job pay without getting into trouble legally or financially.
If you have any start-up tips please send them to us at:


Marco Muia BSc (Hons) MSc MCIWM is a Director of Oaktree Environmental Limited. He specialises in all aspects  of waste planning and regulation consultancy. He also holds the level 4 COTCs for Hazardous Waste Treatment and Transfer.
You can contact Marco on: 01606 558833.
If you have any questions about this article, e-mail him via: marco@oaktree-environmental.co.uk
Follow him on Twitter @wastechat