Skip hire firms might be an integral part of the construction industry all over the world, but debate rages about the origins of the builder’s skip.

Some claim the first use of a skip-like container removed by a lorry in the UK was probably in Southport in 1922.

It came about as a result of Edwin Walker, of lorry manufacturer Pagefield, meeting Southport's borough engineer to address the problem of growing distances between household refuse collection rounds and dumping grounds.

The resulting Pagefield system used 300cu ft horse-drawn containers on 20in diameter wheels that were winched onto the back of a Pagefield lorry to make a relatively speedy trip to a distant dump.

A more up-to-date system was launched by Letchworth firm S&D in 1926 after Harry Shelvoke and his partner James Drewry developed a small-wheeled petrol-engined truck in 1922.

Scores of applications followed, including in 1926 a system featuring sideways-mounted skips for the Marylebone area of London.

However, it was not until nearly half a century later that skips became commonplace on building sites up and down the country.

A waste management firm established in 1912 by Richard Ponti – who was later to change his name to Biffa – claims to have introduced the modern skip bin to the UK in the 1970s.

However, the first metal skips were seen on the streets of the UK in the 1960s. Imported by the London based company George Cross & Co, these first skips were imported from Germany, the birthplace of the skip hire industry, as an innovative solution to the removal of household waste.  

At the time, it was increasingly evident that the use of men with shovels was an extremely inefficient way to collect the waste that could be seen piling up outside homes across the country.  

By realising that on-site containers could be used to collect the waste, and then when full, a truck could simply load the skip and carry the waste away, George Cross created the foundation on which the modern skip hire industry is based on.

Though the skips at the time were all 5-6 yard cubic containers, the skip has evolved over the years to come in a variety of sizes and applications to cope with the demands of modern businesses.

Are you wasting your waste?

Skip sizes

Proskips has a range of skip sizes, from 4 yards to giant 16-yard skips. To calculate the size you might need, we run through their capacity.

  • 4-yard skips hold up to 15 bin bags worth of any type of permissible waste
  • 6-yard skips can take up to 20 bin bags of any permissible waste
  • 8-yard skips can swallow up to 30 bin bags of any permissible waste
  • 12-yard skips can carry up to 40 bin bags but the contents should not include hard core or other heavy waste types
  • 16-yard skips can take up to 50 bin bags but the contents should not include hard core or other heavy waste types

Our smaller skip sizes are most commonly hired by domestic consumers who are carrying out smaller home improvement tasks, such as a garden clearance.

As their name implies, larger builder’s skips are are often hired by commercial clients with larger waste disposal needs.

What can you throw into a skip?

The items that will and won’t be accepted in a skip often varies slightly between skip providers, but as a rule of thumb permitted items include:

  • Rubble
  • Soil
  • Domestic waste
  • Wood
  • Plastic
  • Organic waste
  • Metal
  • Furniture
  • Cardboard

Items not allowed in a skip   

Hazardous waste

This is defined as material that if mismanaged has the potential to cause greater harm to the environment and human health than non-hazardous. Examples include asbestos, explosives, items containing chemicals such as paint, brake fluid, printer toner, batteries, solvents, pesticides, non-edible oils such as engine oil and equipment containing ozone-depleting substances such as refrigerators.

Proskips can advise you whether your waste material is hazardous or not. Alternatively, check the material’s European Waste Catalogue code. In the majority of cases, hazardous waste will have an asterisk next to the code.

Electrical items

The Waste Electric and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations 2013 became law in the UK on 1 January 2014. In short, this means that all WEEE must be collected separately from general waste.
Items covered by the WEEE regulations include:

  • Large household appliances, such as radiators and air conditioning appliances
  • Small household appliances, such as sewing machines, toasters and clocks
  • IT and telecommunications equipment including computers and their accessories, calculators and phones
  • Consumer goods, such as TVs, stereo systems, speakers and electronic musical instruments
  • Lighting equipment including fluorescent tubes and non-household lights. However, other light bulbs can be put in a skip
  • Electrical and electronic tools, including drills, welding equipment and lawnmowers
  • Toys, leisure and sports equipment, including Playstation consoles and electric train sets
  • Medical devices, including dialysis machines, ventilators and radiotherapy equipment. Other medical waste is also prohibited from skips under the EU’s Medical Devices Directive
  • Monitoring and control instruments, such as smoke detectors, thermostats and other instruments used in industrial installations

EU rules, however, require manufacturers should ensure that users of electrical and electronic equipment should have the possibility of returning WEEE at least free of charge.


European environmental legislation has resulted in major changes in how the UK waste management industry operates, particularly in terms of what can be put in landfill sites. This includes the total ban on tyres – even in shredded form – which came into force in July 2006. Whole tyres were banned in July 2003.

Compressed gas cylinders

The vast majority of industrial gas cylinders in circulation in the UK are the property of the main gas suppliers. The simplest and best way to deal with cylinders that are no longer required is to identify the owner and request that they be collected. Even if the cylinders were not originally supplied to the site where they are discovered, the gas company will make arrangements to collect them.


Although there are no laws that prohibits plasterboard being placed in a skip, the Environment Agency asks skip hire firms to separate plasterboard and gypsum based materials from other waste collected. If you plan to dispose of plasterboard, ask Proskips about the hire of plasterboard-only skips.

How much does a skip weigh?

  • A 4-yard skip, when empty, weighs about 125kg (275lbs), roughly the same weight as two kangaroos (35kg each) and a sheep (55.5kg).
  • A 6-yard skip, when empty, weighs about 187kg (412lbs), roughly the same weight as a donkey (187.1kg).
  • An 8-yard skip, when empty, weighs about 250kg (550lbs), roughly the same weight as four chimpanzees (52kg each) and a grey wolf (36kg).A 12-yard skip, when empty, weighs about 375kg (825lbs), roughly the same weight as a male lion (195kg) and two medium-size St Bernard dogs (about 90kg each).
  • A 16-yard skip, when empty, weighs about 500kg (1100lbs), roughly the same weight as a male (275kg) and female ((225kg) Gloucestershire Old Spots pig.

How much does a skip weigh when full?

When filled with waste, however, a skip’s weight can increase dramatically. As a rule of thumb, one cubic yard will contain up to one metric tonne (1000kg) of waste. Putting this into context, one metric tonne is the same weight as about 340 standard house bricks or one cubic yard of soil, depending on the moisture content

  • A 4-yard skip tips the scales at 4125kg (9094 pounds) when full
  • A 6-yard skip weighs 6187kg (13640 pounds) when full
  • An 8-yard skip weighs 8250kg (18188 pounds) when full
  • A 12-yard skip weighs 12,375kg (27282 pounds) when full
  • A 16-yard skip tips the scales at 16,500kg (36376 pounds) – the same weight as 11 hippopotamuses – when full

Skip lorries themselves tend to weigh at least 7.5 tonnes, and are compact but bulky. Note that when the full skip is taken away, the lorry will need the use of its stabilisers - metal legs that exert huge pressure on the ground, and could easily dent soft tarmac, or break paving stones.

Beware of overfilling a skip

Overfilling a skip comes in two forms. The obvious overfill is easy to spot. If your rubbish is sitting above the lip of the skip, then you’ve overfilled it. It might look OK while it’s sitting on your drive or in your yard, but imagine what it would be like on the road.  

The second, not so obvious, form is overfilling with heavy items. How can you not know you’re filling a skip with heavy items? Heavy items don’t appear heavy when they’re going in the skip in dribs and drabs. It’s only later when you’ve put a lot of them in your skip that the damage is done.

It’s usually soil or aggregates that cause the problem. You can easily fill a skip with this kind of material right up to the lip and it’ll look fine. But the weight of the thing can be immense. At best, the truck might tip over while trying to lift this kind of weight. At worst, it can put an enormous amount of pressure on the truck’s axle, potentially causing it to sheer whilst in transit.

The solution? Think carefully about what you intend to fill your skip with and hire an appropriate size.  

The video below shows how not to do it…


Further skip hire advice

Don’t try to hide prohibited items in the middle of a skip. Skips are emptied after collection so the waste can be separated and recycled.

You are responsible for all of the waste inside your skip when it is collected, so beware of unwanted additions to your skip when placing an open skip in an area that other people can access, such as a public road or front garden.

You may be fined or prosecuted if you use an unlicensed skip hire provider.

Waste carrier licences

Every company that deals in the collection, removal and disposasl of waste, whether domestic or construction, is required by law to hold a valid waste carrier licence.

Every skip hire firm that is part of the Proskips network has a valid Waste Carrier Licence. This information can be verified by viewing the official government register.

Using a company with a waste carrier licence not only ensures that they are following correct procedures as stipulated by law, but also that high standards are adhered to when transporting waste from job to job, to storage or to a disposal site.

National Skip Hire Association

Whether you’re a domestic or a commercial skip hire customer, you need to be certain that the waste material you are placing in your skip will be dealt with legally and professionally.  

One way of identifying a reputable skip hire company is to find out whether or not they are a member of the National Skip Hire Association (NSHA) – the UK’s only trade organisation to which skip hire companies can apply for membership.

The role of the National Skip Hire Association

The National Skip Hire Association was established in August 2007 to provide a means of allowing skip hire customers to easily identify ethical and professional skip hire companies, as opposed to fly-tippers – unlicenced waste carriers who illegally dump waste materials on land that is not authorised to accept it.

The NSHA works closely with the Trading Standards Office in the pursuit and prosecution of rogue waste carriers who damage the reputation of the skip hire industry.

Professional, legal skip hire companies that are licenced by the Environment Agency as Approved Waste Carriers may apply to become members of the National Skip Hire Association. Applicants are fully vetted to ensure that they are reliable and competent, and members of the NSHA are bound by a code of professional conduct.

Skip hire costs

When hiring a skip, it should be remembered that waste disposal fees for skip companies are based on weight not volume of waste. The heavier the material, the more it costs to dispose of.  

Skip loads comprising denser, heavier materials like rubble, soil and concrete cost more than lighter loads of bulkier waste like furniture, paper and packaging, and flooring materials.

The most expensive bill for a single skip is the £95,000 grant the Arts Council handed Brighton & Hove Council to display a work by British artist David Batchelor outside the local town hall.

The art in question was entitled ‘Skip’ and was an ordinary, battered old skip illuminated by neon tubes.

Before earning a mention in pressure group The TaxPayers’ Alliance’s Bumper Book of Government Waste, the skip was placed in Bartholomew Square as part of the city's 2012 Arts Festival.

It was claimed that the piece of modern art was inspired by the city’s streets and an Arts Festival spokesman was quoted as saying: “It is just amazing how David Batchelor can transform ordinary, everyday objects into something extraordinary.

“You really have to see it to appreciate it. As the light changes from day to night, the yellow light from the neon tubes intensifies and you will often see it reflected in the puddles.”

It’s a shame Brighton & Hove Council did not approach Proskips. We can provide any size of skip, anywhere in the country. We have developed a national network of local skip hire partners who provide a great service at a price well under £95,000 and who recycle their waste.

For your unbeatable skip hire quote call Proskips on 0800 612 2027 or 020 8879 9892. Alternatively, click here.

Skip Hire Permits

Do I need a skip hire permit?

Yes – if the skip you hire from Proskips is going to be placed on a public highway.  Section 169 of the Highways Act 1980 states that it is an offence to place anything on the highway without the permission of the local Highway Authority.

The exceptions to this are Red Routes, which are the responsibility of Transport for London, and a small number of privately managed roads.

You do not need a skip licence if your skip is placed on private land.

Contact Proskips and we will make the arrangements for you. Local councils issue skip hire licences on behalf of the Highway Authority. In most areas, skip hire companies are responsible for obtaining skip licences, not residents, builders or contractors. This is because the local authority will insist the skip operator holds Public Liability Insurance. It is also likely to insist that the skip hire company is a licensed waste carrier. If a skip is placed on the road without a licence, the skip hire company is liable to prosecution and could face a fine of up to £1000.

How do I obtain a skip hire permit?

Contact Proskips and we will make the arrangements for you.

Local councils issue skip hire licences on behalf of the Highway Authority. In most areas, skip hire companies are responsible for obtaining skip licences, not residents, builders or contractors.

This is because the local authority will insist the skip operator holds Public Liability Insurance. It is also likely to insist that the skip hire company is a licensed waste carrier.

If a skip is placed on the road without a licence, the skip hire company is liable to prosecution and could face a fine of up to £1000.

Some councils allow skip hire companies to register with them in advance to speed up the licence application process. Otherwise, it normally takes five working days for local authorities to process a skip licence application.

How long does it take to get a skip hire permit?

Some local authorities allow skip hire companies to register with them in advance to speed up the licence application process. Otherwise, it normally takes five working days for local authorities to process a skip licence application.

How long does a skip hire licence last?

Once issued, a licence is valid for up to 14 days. If the skip needs to remain on the road for longer, the licence must be renewed.

Are there any other rules covering skip hire licences?

Many councils rule that a skip cannot be placed within 18.3 metres of road junctions, traffic lights, pedestrian crossings, entrances or exits from schools or hospitals.

The vast majority of local authorities also insist all skips placed on public roads have safety lights and markings. Difference councils have different rules, but they could include reflective markings, traffic cones, night-time safety lamps and the name and telephone number of the skip hire company.

Failure to comply can lead to skip hire companies being fined up to £1000.

How much is a skip hire permit?

Charges for skip permits vary according to where you are in the UK, but in London the average cost is £46.

If a skip needs to be placed in a controlled parking zone, such as a residents’ parking bay or metered parking, then you will need to pay parking bay suspension fees on top. These vary dramatically by council, but in parts of London they can be up to £70 per day.

What actually happens to my waste after my skip is taken away? 

This depends on a few fundamentals: what type of waste you have, and which skip company you use.  

Landfill space is a big issue in the UK, and the government has increased Landfill Tax rates for the waste management industry. This encourages companies to keep the amount of waste produced to a minimum.  

The best skip operators will have invested in – and continue to invest in – new technology to allow them to increase the amount they can recycle. The majority of waste should be recycled and not sent to landfill sites.  

The costs of sending waste to landfill are high, so skip hire companies are recycling more waste. Some skip companies have their own waste processing facilities, while others outsource it to a licensed third party for processing. The waste will then be separated into different waste streams for either recycling or recovery, with a minimal amount sent to landfill.  

As a general rule, the cheaper the cost of skip hire, the less likely it is the waste will be disposed of responsibly.  

So what about us? Proskips is part of Prowaste Management Services. We are committed to environmental sustainability and always aim to reduce the amount of waste being sent to landfill. You can find out more about how we recycle your waste HERE

Blog home

Add a comment