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Cost to Set Up a Waste Transfer Station

If you watched War on Plastic, a BBC One documentary you will have seen Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Anita Rani examining or waste impacts here in the UK. Hugh visited a waste dump in Malaysia (inset) where UK waste had been abandoned un-recycled. Despite being segregated and exported from the UK.

But why has this happened. Why don't we recycle this plastic here in the UK. We could burn it in an incinerator and produce energy, or we could squash it back in plastic pellets and use it to make new items. Why don't we do this?

The fact is, that is is very very expensive to set up a properly licensed waste transfer station in the UK, it takes a very long time as well.

Image Courtesy of the BBC War on Plastic

Planning Costs for a Waste Transfer Station

The first hurdle to jump after finding a suitable site is planning. You will need to draw up plans, and undertake lots of assessment fro transport, contaminated land and flooding if relevant. There are also the fees which need to be paid to the planning department. These planning costs can easily reach £20,000. The planning process can also take months. A quick application might be finished in 6 months, whilst a drawn out planning application for a waste transfer station might take 18 months or more.

Permitting Costs

A well as planning permission you will also need an environmental permit. These are tricky to get. Again costs for application fees and consultancy fees can quickly add up to £20,000. Perhaps one of the problematic aspect of obtaining a permit is the requirement for a Fire Prevention Plan. It could take over a year to get an environmental permit issued.

Site Costs

A very crude estimate might suggest between £250,000 and £500,000 for a site without planning permission, in an industrial area where obtaining planning permission is likely. Of course you could rent or lease the site, but you would not be able to use it until you obtained planning permission and a permit. So you might need to factor in 2 years of non-use as an expense.

Buildings & Infrastructure

You will need an industrial building to carry out your work within, the site will need to be concerted, and the drainage system needs to be functional. The site needed to be bunded, to contain spills. . .and more recently fire water which huge attenuation volume are required for.  Depending on the size of you operation these cost might start at £200,000.


Lastly you need the equipment to actually do the job. Specialist equipment such as pelletizers can be expensive, you may also need skips, lorries, grabs, excavators etc. Prices can vary widely here, but £200,000 might seam like a random figure with some bearing in reality.


So if you want to start recycling plastic bottles, you will probably need to spend over £1,000,000 to get start legally in the UK. Lets be clear if decide to take this plunge, and find an investor crazy enough to back you, you will receive no help from planning authorities, and certainly not the Environment Agency. They will fight you every step of the way.

So that is why there are wastes of all types are piling up in foreign countries flung there by UK exporters. It costs just £500 to get a waste export license, which is a lot cheaper then £1,000,000.