What can’t you put in a skip: 13 items that will get you into trouble

Clearing out your clutter before a move or renovation? We talk trash and discover the items that you shouldn’t put in a skip.

When you’re moving house or about to start a renovation project, it’s likely you’ll be hiring a skip to get rid of your unwanted junk or waste material. But, before the skip’s delivered, it’s worth finding out what can’t be put in a skip, as being in the know will save you any lastminute headaches or extra charges  

Full yellow skip sitting on a drivewayCredit: Shutterstock/vebboy
Hazardous items cannot be put into a skip

While plenty of household waste materials can be put into a skip, those that aren’t permitted are not allowed for a good reason. Waste management expert and managing director at Skips and Bins Scott Hawthorne explains that there are regulations to ensure that hazardous materials can’t be thrown into a skip, as they are “either a danger to the environment or human health”. 

“Each hazardous item is subject to special regulations and disposal routes, depending on what they are,” he adds. 

So, what is counted as a hazardous item? We reveal all.  

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1. Electrical items

They are hazardous

Electrical items cannot go into a skip as they are considered hazardous and must be disposed of safely. “Electrical items, such as fridges, freezers and other electrical appliances, can contain harmful chemicals such as refrigerants and other toxic materials,” says Baileys Skip Hire. “These materials can be harmful to the environment if they are not disposed of correctly.”

When getting rid of waste electrical and electronic equipment [referred to as WEEE], Baileys Skip Hire suggests contacting your local council for guidance.  

Speedy Services agrees, “Large electrical items, such as ovens, washing machines and fridge freezers, often have to be stripped down, with each part recycled or disposed of separately.”  

The same applies to smaller items such as televisions, computer monitors, microwaves, games consoles and baby monitors. 

Could you get more use out of electrical items?

There are ways to extend the life of electrical products. “If they are in working condition, you can consider donating them to a charity or a family friend,” says Hawthorne. “But if they are unusable, then some manufacturers have recycling schemes for their old products, which you can opt into.” 

2. Paint

An empty paint tin is OK

Old paint cansCredit: Shutterstock/IkeHayden
Paint cannot go into a skip, but empty paint cans are allowed

“You shouldn’t put paint or paint cans that aren’t empty into your skip,” says Hawthorne.   

It’s unusual for a skip hire company to have the necessary licence to dispose of paint, which, as a liquid-based solvent, is considered hazardous waste. However, if you clean out the container you may be able to add it to your skip. Otherwise, you may need to visit your local refuse site or contact your local council to discover if it runs a paint disposal service. 

 If the paint is still in good condition, Hawthorne recommends keeping it to use later down the line for those “important touch-ups”. “Alternatively, consider sharing unwanted paint with local community groups who might need some additional supplies or, if there is only a little bit, you can brush this onto paper or cardboard and leave to dry. Once dry, place this with your usual household bin.” 

3. Asbestos

It’s found in many building materials

“Under no circumstances should you ever place any asbestos or materials containing asbestos in a skip,” warns Pro Skips. “Asbestos is extremely hazardous and needs careful handling by a specialist waste company that will dispose of it safely.” 

If the materials that contain asbestos are damaged, fibres are released into the air, and when inhaled they can cause serious harm, including cancer and damage to the lining of the lungs. 

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has a list of where asbestos can be found in homes. 

Asbestos was used in construction work for many years, before its risk to health was realised. According to the HSE, “around 20 tradesmen die each week as a result of past exposure”.  

4. Plasterboard

It can produce a poisonous gas

Since 2009, the Environment Agency banned plasterboard from being disposed of in skips. “This is because plasterboard is made up of a mineral called gypsum sandwiched in between layers of lining paper. Gypsum contains sulphates, which means that when it gets wet or is buried with other waste materials, it releases hydrogen sulphide gases into the environment,” says SCS Waste 

Instead, plasterboard can be disposed of through your local council recycling centre or through a private waste disposal company. 

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5. Upholstered seating and furniture

The rules have changed

Old black leather sofa sitting on pavementCredit: Shutterstock/Baloncici
Upholstered seating is now considered hazardous waste

Since 1 January 2023, the Environment Agency has banned the disposal of upholstered seating and it must be treated as hazardous waste. Why the sudden change? The textiles and foam in the upholstered furniture fall under the category of containing persistent organic pollutants (POPs), meaning they are harmful to people and the environment. If you’re planning to dispose of that old sofa that’s lost its bounce, you’ll need to arrange for it to be taken to your local recycling centre. 

According to Let’s Recycle, the Environment Agency has written to all local authorities with the latest advice, warning that “waste upholstered domestic seating containing POPS must not be landfilled, mixed with other non-POPs- containing wastes, reused or recycled”.   

Let’s Recycle also states on its website that the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency says, “it intends to follow the Agency’s lead, though it has acknowledged concerns about infrastructure and capacity”. 

Therefore, if you live in Scotland and are planning to dispose of some upholstered seating or furniture, contact your local council for advice. 

Upholstered items you can’t put in your skip

According to the Government’s website, the following items may contain POPs:

  • Sofas
  • Sofa beds
  • Armchairs
  • Upholstered bar stools and dining-room chairs 
  • Home-office chairs
  • Futons
  • Beanbags
  • Floor cushions

Tip 

Can your old furniture be upcycled or given to charity? If you’re keen to donate your furniture, make sure the fire label is attached, otherwise the charity won’t be able to accept it.   

Rusty blue skip with mattress protruding from the topCredit: Shutterstock/loocmill
Not all skip companies will dispose of mattresses, and those that do might charge extra

6. Mattresses

You may need to pay an additional fee

Most skip companies won’t dispose of mattresses, so if this is an item you’re planning on getting rid of do check beforehand. Love Skips says that if a mattress is added to one of its skips, you will be charged extra at the time of collection to cover the skip operator’s additional costs of disposing of them. 

7. Fluorescent tubes

They contain toxic mercury

Fluorescent tubes contain mercury and, if broken, can be very dangerous. According to Wiser Recycling, “Mercury is toxic and can cause damage to the brain, kidneys, lungs, nervous system and other vital organs.” For this reason, fluorescent tubes must be handled with care, and they cannot be put in a skip. 

8. Gas cylinders

They can explode if crushed

Even if you think your gas cylinder is empty, it might still contain a trace of gas, and if crushed, they can explode. “Most gas bottles are designed to have a long life,” says Recycle Now, “and can be returned to suppliers to be refilled and reused.”   

If you still want to get rid of a gas cylinder, check if whether your local recycling centre accepts them.

9. Batteries

Battery acid can permeate the soil

Batteries contain poisonous chemicals, such as nickel, lead and mercury, and are harmful to us and the environment. If they are not disposed of responsibly, the chemicals can leak into the soil and water supplies causing harm to all life. 

As well as your local recycling centre, many shops and supermarkets offer battery collection services, making it easy to discard of them safely during your day-to-day life. 

10. Harmful chemicals

Can be a danger to people and the environment

Harmful chemicals, such as solvents and glue, should not be put in a skip. Instead, get in touch with your local council and it will advice you on the best method to dispose of them. 

11. Medical waste

Take care when disposing of sharps and infectious waste

Any medical or biological waste should be kept out of your skip; this includes any needles or dressings. Your local council may provide a clinical waste collection service, so it’s worth finding out if it can help. 

12. Tyres

They can be recycled

“Tyres are notoriously difficult to dispose of,” says Sun Skips, “and a common item for people to fly-tip – but they can be recycled, so there’s absolutely no need to dump them.” 

When burned, tyres give off toxic fumes, so they need to be disposed of responsibly. You should be able to take them to your local recycling centre, but check with them first before turning up. Alternatively, if a tyre dealer is replacing a worn-out tyre for you, they may offer a recycling scheme. 

13. Oil, petrol and diesel

These materials can ignite

Oil, petrol and diesel are highly flammable materials and should not be put in a skip. If they catch fire, they can cause serious chemical burns. Your local recycling centre should be able to help you dispose of these materials safely. 

Can a skip company refuse to collect the skip or charge a fine? 

They can refuse to collect, but can’t charge a fine directly

“A skip company can always refuse to collect and should always do so, if the waste contains hazardous or illegitimate materials,” says Hawthorne. However, it can’t impose a fine if the regulations are ignored. This task is left to the Environment Agency across England and Wales, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency in Scotland and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency in Northern Ireland.

The skip company can charge for a wasted journey, when it hasn’t been able to collect the skip because it contains hazardous waste.  

Can a skip company charge more for some items?

Yes, and the amount depends on the disposal process

Skip companies will charge differently for collecting materials such as mattresses, plasterboards and carpets. “They have dedicated disposal routes, and each process has a different cost associated with it,” says Hawthorne. 

Individual skip companies are free to set their own costs, which will vary depending on the item’s disposal process and the volume of waste to be collected.   

Skip is driveway is full to the brimCredit: Shutterstock/Charlie Goodall
Avoid overfilling the skip, as it has to be safe to transport

What happens if the skip is overfilled?

The skip must be safe to transport

“The Government’s transportation of safe loads and handling rules apply,” explains Hawthorne. “Skips are required to be netted off while transported, and, therefore, no skip should be filled past its level top edge. 

Who sets out the regulations regarding skips?

The Government sets the rules

“Defra [the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs] sets the regulations, chiefly through the Environmental Protection Act and Waste Regulations,” explains Hawthorne. “The Environment Agency (EA) are the licensing and enforcement body in England and Wales, responsible for permitting and upholding the regulations, while the equivalent body in Scotland is SEPA (Scottish Environment Protection Agency). 

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Camilla Sharman

Written by Camilla Sharman she/her

Updated:

With her 30 years of experience, Camilla Sharman has covered a wide range of sectors within the business and consumer industries both as a feature, content, and freelance writer.  As a business journalist, Camilla has researched articles for many different sectors from the jewellery industry to finance and tech, charities, and the arts. Whatever she’s covered, she enjoys delving deep and learning the ins and out of different topics, then conveying her research within engaging content that informs the reader.