A Guide to Sofa Removal
Read Time: 8 mins
Sofa Removal in the UK
Wondering what to do with your old sofa, or how to recycle your old sofa? There’s a range of options available and in this guide we will walk you through them.
Over 1.6 million tonnes of bulky waste is thrown out in the UK every year and over 40% of that is furniture, with sofas and armchairs at the top of the list with over 200,000 tonnes worth thrown away.
The average household replaces their sofas every 11 years, so finding the most suitable sofa removal service is essential – both for the environment and your wallet. We’ll guide you through your options which include sofa re-use networks, local authority services as well as various commercial options, outlining rough costs and environmental considerations.
Sofa removal – the problem
Sofas come in many shapes and sizes – couch, settee, armchair (or three piece suite), lazy boy to name just a few, and can vary from small single seat armchairs to large modern corner sofas.
Removal of these items can be frustrating due to their size as they can’t be thrown away with your bin collection. Council sofa collections tend to be kerbside (and are increasingly charged for) which could take weeks to organise whilst re-use networks can sometimes be unreliable and may involve strangers coming into your home to have a look. Hiring a van and driving down the local tip can be time consuming (and busy at weekends / bank holidays) and commercial collectors despite being convenient, cost money.
There’s cheaper options available on places like Facebook, but the ‘Facebook fly-tipper’ problem reported in The Telegraph is an ever present risk, and as the producer of the sofa, you are responsible for their disposal. A LGA spokesman quoted in the Telegraph article stated: “Small scale criminals are attempting to undercut legitimate services by offering to take household rubbish away cheaply.” However, they are often just dumping items on other people’s land or in public. People should avoid using these services as they are driving the problem.”
The waste hierarchy
It is a legal requirement to apply the waste hierarchy where it is economically viable to do so. The goal is to move more sofas up the waste hierarchy, thereby reducing their environmental impact.
Reduce and reuse
This will involve initiatives to extend the end of life of furniture, perhaps through repairs and cleaning, and re-using items wherever possible.
It is estimated that currently around 20% of sofas are re-used in some form, with most of the others often ending up in landfill.
Re-use can take many forms, from repurposing to giving it to someone else. Outside of offering your sofa to friends and family, there are generally two options here – an online marketplace or a charity sofa collection.
Essentially DIY re-use, where you list your sofa on an online local marketplace. This can be quick and easy to get started with – simply take some photos and place online and see if there are any takers. Sometimes you can sell your sofas for a profit, or if the sofa isn’t in the best condition you may be happy if someone simply takes it from you for nothing.
There are some ‘downsides’ or considerations:
You will need to allow strangers to come and have a look, so always exercise caution before letting people in and be careful who you give your contact details and address to.
It’s not uncommon for no shows or for the potential buyer to reject the sofa or barter on price.
If something goes wrong, like your old sofa breaks or there is damage that the buyer did not notice, you may have an uncomfortable conversation or visit.
Online marketplaces include:
Charities and free sofa collection services
There are plenty of charities who will collect your old sofa for free including large and well known national charities such as the British Heart Foundation and the Age UK, and more local charities supporting specific local causes such as St Christopher’s Hospice in London. Due to the size of sofas, these items can sometimes be less desirable to charities who do not have a lot of space when compared to items such as fashion and electronics and collection can be dependent on available space.
Keep in mind:
Sofas must be in very good condition
This means little or no wear and tear including scratches. The sofa must look in good condition and there must be a realistic value to the sofa, unless you have booked a charity which is not looking to re-sell. If they do not meet a high standard there is a good chance your sofas will not be taken.
If your sofa can’t be re-used then the next stage of the waste hierarchy is to see if it can be recycled.
Sofas are generally very difficult to recycle and it can often cost more to recycle your sofa than simply send it to landfill – because of this your choice of operator is very important.
However to understand the sofa recycling dynamic, we need to look at what makes up a sofa.
A typical sofa may contain a lot of materials and components, and with modern manufacturing many of these are inseparable. Some of these materials and components found in a sofa include velcro cover fixings, fabric or leather covers, steel support bars, metal springs, wooden frames, plastic webbing, metal staples, wheels and a foam filling / padding.
Taking these sofas apart by hand is very labour intensive and not commercially viable currently. This means in many cases sofa recycling involves shredding and mechanical separation and sorting, which involves expensive plant and machinery.
Residual waste from sofas typically waste which cannot be separated into specific waste streams, can then be sent for incineration or turned into resource derived fuel (RDF), which whilst better than landfill, is still low down the waste hierarchy.
Other Sofa Collection & Disposal Options
Local Authority and Council Collections
Almost all councils offer a bulky waste collection service although the service level and cost can vary dramatically depending on where you live.
In Birmingham, for example the cost is £25 for up to 3 items whilst Waverley Council is £44 for one item.
The Local Authority / Council option is usually cost effective as the service is subsidised, although it is not usually very flexible or convenient.
Cost varies depending on the items you need disposing of and where you live.
You will usually need to place the items outside early in the morning on the day specified as there won’t be many councils that will collect from inside the property and times are rarely given.
Lead times are typically 2-4 weeks and can sometimes be longer.
Sofas are usually transferred to a HWRC or council tipping location which usually means lower landfill diversion rates compared with commercial operators (20-30% vs >90%).
Local Household Waste Recycling Centre
Your local council has a legal obligation to help you dispose of your waste, usually through the provision of Household Waste Recycling Centres. However this only covers waste directly produced in the home, which means your bin waste and bulky waste (like furniture and sofas), but not ‘commercial’ waste such bricks, rubble, soil, plasterboard anything which may originate from a home DIY project. The Telegraph reported in 2018 half of councils have introduced charges of up to £200 for disposing of DIY waste.
This means you can drive your sofa down to the local tip, which will usually be free. However due to the bulky nature of sofas you may find you need to hire (or borrow) a van to get your sofa to the HWRC. If you turn up in a van remember to take proof of residency such as a utility bill or council tax bill, as councils are clamping down on vans turning up to HWRC’s and there’s a good chance you will be turned away.
Some councils also require vans to be registered before coming in, so check before turning up.
If you don’t have access to a van, some people choose to break their sofa up into smaller pieces. Whilst this is a viable option and it is your sofa, it will render the sofa useless for reuse, so if it is in good condition, you may want to consider a charity service first.
If you do have access to a van and your sofa is in good condition, consider dropping it off at the re-use part of the tip, which is often by the entrance or exit, rather than throwing it in a skip.
Councils generally have a bad track record on recycling and landfill diversion rates, due to the sheer volume they handle and only a very small portion end up being reused or recycled versus landfill.
Local Household Waste Recycling Centre
Commercial operators will charge for the collection of your old sofa and transfer it to a commercial Waste Transfer Station. Currently it is often more expensive to recycle sofas than send them to landfill, so it is very important the operator you choose is committed to landfill avoidance.
Man & Van
Man & van sofa collections can be very convenient and are increasingly popular with council services becoming more expensive and slower and access to tips more difficult and the emergence of nationwide professional companies such as Clearabee available on a same day basis without outsourcing.
Remember to carry out your Duty of Care, as there are plenty of rogue operators and unlicensed carriers who could fly tip your waste.
Check your sofa collection is not being subcontracted to an unknown operator
Ask where the sofa is going to and ask this to be detailed on the Waste Transfer Note
Check online reviews and consider a well known national brand
Skip hire for sofas
Using a skip for your old sofas is an option but there are quite a few downsides compared to a man and van service.
They are generally quite expensive as sofas are bulky and may not fit into a small level loaded skip without a load of chopping up.
They can be less environmentally friendly as a HGV will deliver and remove the skip, which only contains light bulky sofas.
They are slower – as the skip needs to be dropped off, filled and collected. You will need to budget a few days at the very least for them to be gone. This can be unsightly and risks neighbours adding to your skip.
There are things we really do recommend a skip for, such as building and construction waste or when you need containment, but we think a skip is a little overkill for sofa collections.
Skip bags for sofas
Skip bags can be used for sofas and act as a bit of a halfway house between man and van and skip hire. A large or extra large skip bag by Clearabee will usually fit a three piece suite in depending on how big your sofas are. In the case of the Clearabee skip bag these arrive through the post which is more environmentally friendly than a skip and they can be collected next day using a man and van style vehicle – which means fast and flexible.
Clearabee Sofa Removal Service Overview
Clearabee is the UK’s largest rubbish removal company, collecting thousands of sofas every month and on average diverts over 95% of the waste collected from landfill.
Our two person teams will come at a time and day of your choice to remove your old sofa. We offset 150% of the co2 from our vehicles and over the last year have planted more than 6,500 trees in the UK, creating a new forest
Our sofa collection service is same day and on demand
95% Landfill diversion
0% of sofas collected by Clearabee go direct to landfill
Carbon neutral fleet
6,500 trees have been planted my Clearabee in the UK in the last year
Two man service
We remove your sofa from inside of your home
Our sofa removal service is available 7 days a week
Book your sofa removal with ease using our online booking system
UK’s number 1
The UK’s largest clearance company. Clearabee is a brand you can trust
100% in house
We don’t outsource any of our sofa removals
Boosting Sofa Re-use & Recycling in the Future
There’s huge scope to increase re-use of bulky waste and furniture such as sofas.
Fire labels – do not remove from your sofa
One of the biggest issues is the fire labels being removed or falling off. Unlike WEEE waste (waste electricals) retailers can’t PAT test items to check they are safe, at least not without damaging the sofas. This means once the fire label is removed, the is likely to end up best case being recycled, worse case landfill.
Whilst it may be too late for your current sofas, when your new sofas arrive, be sure to leave the fire label on. If it is hanging loose you could pin it in place so it does not get caught and remains out of sight, if that is an issue.
Give yourself plenty of time
Start thinking about what you’re going to do with your old sofa as soon as you know you’re replacing it. Options can get slimmer as your new sofas get near delivery and if they end up in the garden or outside, they become increasingly likely to end up in landfill.
Repairing and cleaning your sofa
Many sofas can be cleaned and repaired, which may make them more re-usable for someone else or even ‘keep-able’ for you. Reduce and reuse are top of the waste hierarchy, so if you can extend the life of your sofas you’re doing a great job.
It is estimated 30% of sofas could be in a re-usable condition if they are cleaned and repaired first, making this a significant avenue for growth in potential re-use of sofas.
There’s a number of specialist companies who can offer sofa cleaning and repairs as well as a number of self help videos for those after a little project, including:
Buying quality – throw away culture
The ‘throw away society’ has been well documented recently, and this applies to furniture and sofas just as much. Sometimes buying a little extra quality up front may mean your sofa lasts much longer and actually works out better in terms of cost and quality.
For example the move away from solid wood and metal furniture to cheaper material limits the potential for re-use and longevity. However solid wood is also less sustainable in many cases, so it’s not always completely clear cut and better consumer information will help inform the buying decision.
Manufacturing and design
A lot of the problems around sofa recycling are not down to you, or even the council. Most sofas are not currently designed with re-use, recycling or material recovery in mind.
In the future sofas may be more modular, with replacement parts more readily available. With greater planning they could also be easier to recycle with less use of hybrid materials and each part easier to separate from other constituent parts.
Design can also have a big impact with cheaper designs, such as the use of staples and nails rather screws and easier to remove and replace attachments.