Industry sector: Business services

Waste collection: Market research


When you plan your waste collection business it's very important to think about who your customers will be, how well they are already served, and why they will chose your business over your competitors. Doing some market research will help you with this.

The demand for a specialist waste collecting service

You need to find out whether there is enough demand for your waste collection business in the area. The collection of dry waste is generally well catered for with domestic waste collection services and recycling facilities provided by the local authority. Skip hire is also widely available for people who want to dispose of larger items or waste such as household and garden rubbish or building rubble. To make sure you'll get enough business you will probably need to offer a more specialised service.

Bearing this in mind, think about the types of waste collection services that would be most in demand in your area. For example - in rural areas you might consider offering a farm waste collection service for used pesticides, other agrochemicals, or animal by-products. In areas of industrial activity, you could consider offering to collect waste oil, chemicals, scrap metal or obsolete equipment. In towns and cities, you might collect office waste such as batteries, waste paper, cardboard, plastic, toner cartridges or old computer equipment. Maybe you plan to focus on recyclables. You might offer a sensitive document shredding and disposal service.

Find out about the waste collection policy of the local authority for the area in which you'll be operating. With the increase in recycling in recent years, different authorities have adopted different policies with regard to waste collection. Some have restricted the number of bags/bins of household waste they will collect and the frequency of collections, some collecting fortnightly and others at longer intervals. Some collect garden waste free while others charge. The policy in your area may offer scope for supplementing local authority collections with regular or one-off collections for households which find the official collections inadequate. You will also be able to establish what paid-for services the authority offers and what its prices are.

Competition

When you've given some thought to the potential waste collecting opportunities in your area, you need to consider the level of competition that is already there. Try to identify how many other organisations are already offering waste collection services locally. A search on Yell.com and in other local directories should help to give you a good idea about this. You will have already thought about the level of competition you face from the services provided free or paid-for by local authority. Now think about the competition from:

  • skip hire firms
  • recycling and recovery businesses and organisations
  • other independent waste management businesses - these might include large national organisations such as Biffa and Veolia and smaller local firms

You will probably only be competing directly against some of these businesses, especially if you have been able to identify a niche in the market that you can fill.

Have a good look at the existing waste collection businesses in your area to establish:

  • what kind of waste they collect and the prices they charge
  • over what area they are prepared to collect waste
  • how frequently they collect
  • whether they provide the appropriate bins, skips, containers and sacks
  • which services they offer in addition to waste collection - for example, decontamination services, industrial cleaning and clearance, waste management advice
  • how knowledgeable and helpful their staff are
  • whether they are members of a trade association or professional body

Remember too that you'll be competing against unregistered waste carriers and operators running illegal waste sites - although the government has had some success in closing down some of these rogue operators, waste crime is still a big issue for the industry.

Why will customers choose your business

It's very important to make sure that enough customers will choose your business rather than existing waste collection services. You'll need to find out what people want and whether the type of services you are thinking of offering will attract customers. Be aware that many customers will focus heavily on price. Your market research might indicate that there is a demand for a specialist collection service that your business can fill.

You could try carrying out a local survey of potential customers. These might include organisations such as hospitals, schools and colleges, businesses such as farms, boarding kennels, garages, shops, builders, catering establishments and large industrial concerns as well as domestic homeowners who may occasionally need a specialist waste collection service. Try to find out about the type of waste they produce and whether they would make use of a collection service.

Use the record sheets to note down the results of your market research.