Firms offering bribes to bin men, survey finds

A tiny proportion of companies are 'bribing' council waste operatives to treat their commercial waste as household waste, new research has found.

According to a survey of 4,500 UK-based businesses, just over 1% of respondents admitted to disposing of their commercial waste through ‘illicit means’ in a bid to save money.

Commercial waste firm carried out the anonymous survey and found around 50 companies (1.1%) were avoiding paying for commercial waste disposal by bribing council waste operatives to treat the rubbish as household waste instead.

The survey found that a small but significant number of companies were negotiating deals at their ‘back doors’ in order to save substantial sums on their waste removal “for as little as a few drinks down the pub”.

“In tough financial times, some business owners are cutting corners on their budgets,” said spokesman Mark Hall. “And if they find an illicit way to have commercial or bulky waste taken away for next to nothing, they’ll certainly take advantage of it.”

Speaking to, Hall said that businesses should be “named and shamed” if they were caught paying bin men “bungs” to remove their commercial waste to treat it as household waste.

Hall added: “The threat should be on the business. They should be audited and ranked on the waste they dispose of. The public will end up dealing only with ethical companies rather than those who don’t give two craps about the environment.”

Among the excuses given by some of the fifty companies who confessed were:

  • “We took commercial waste home and put it in our domestic bins.”
  • “Paid bin man a tenner to remove loads of bulky waste.”
  • “Would bump into our bin men down the pub. A round of drinks works wonders.”

Hall explained: “We were told several times in confidence that the price of a pint handed over at the business’s back door is enough for a council operative to turn a blind eye. They all had their reasons for doing so, but it all boiled down to money.”

All said that they knew they were breaking the law but said:

  • Couldn’t afford to pay
  • Objected to paying
  • “I already pay my council tax.”

“Essentially, there are significant numbers who were prepared to act illegally, and local authorities need to root out both the companies who refuse to pay, and the refuse operators lining their own pockets.

“We’re certain the problem is far more widespread than our survey suggests.”

“Everybody’s after something for nothing from their local bin men,” said Hall, “Local councils need to stop this now.”

Speaking to, CIWM chief executive Steve Lee said: “The report reveals a small but irksome underbelly of waste and resources management that’s too fat by half. Apparently 1% of businesses confess to resorting to illegal management of their waste – passing it off as household waste or bribery or maybe worse.

“Far from commonplace, ‘bin man bribery’ is a culture of ‘stuff-thy-neighbours’-bins or the victory of white van men over compliant businesses and unfair additional burdens on hard-pushed council tax payers.

“How many of the 1% duckers and divers are first to moan about the cost of local council services?

“CIWM wants sharp practice to be cut out of business waste management. Every single business, big or small, has a legal duty to ensure its waste is managed properly.

“Every waste management business has a duty to carry out that legal management and all professional waste managers in CIWM have a code of conduct to live by. Bribes and fly-tipping have no place in the 21st Century waste and resource management industry.

“Interestingly, all good waste managers will give waste producers valuable information back – what they waste, where and when, and what happened to it.”

LARAC chair Andrew Bird told “Local authorities take issues around fraud very seriously, and what is being described is fraud. Unfortunately a small number businesses and people will always try to avoid having to correctly dispose of their waste in an attempt to save costs, or because they feel waste is someone else’s problem. 

“This analysis seems to assume local authorities are just letting this happen, which is wrong. With the current financial crisis affecting the public sector, authorities are looking hard at their trade waste services to ensure they are financially sound and the service is not being subsidised by the genuine taxpayer.

“There are some good examples of effective communications with businesses making them aware of their legal responsibilities provided by a number of LARAC’s members.”

Liz Gyekye



Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie