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Northern Powerhouse European Union

Market intelligence for the waste management industry

Greater Manchester has always had a thriving waste management, recycling and reprocessing industry. It is symptomatic of the size of our population and the success of our industry that the city has always produced large quantities of waste. 


Trends in efficiency have over time meant that many businesses are fully aware of their waste arising and make great efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle. This has contributed to the growth of the waste management sector, as they provide the services to help industry meet these aims and objectives.

There are currently 200 companies active in the waste management, recovery and recycling sector across Greater Manchester, employing 3,861 people and generating £648m of sales. These companies offer a range of services, including: 

  • Total waste management
  • Alternative recovery methods (i.e. anaerobic digestion, energy from waste and SRF production) 
  • WEEE reprocessing and recovery 
  • Specialist plastic recycling 
  • Metal reprocessing 

One of the main market drivers for the waste industry has been regulation and legislation, such as the land fill tax and recycling targets, many of which have been agreed and set at a European level. Much of this legislation is now due for a refresh but with the uncertainties presented by Brexit it is not clear where and when new regulation and legislation will come into force, meaning the industry is facing a period of uncertainty. 

Following market trends and looking out for new market drivers is time consuming and takes a skill not all businesses poses. One of the ways the Business Growth Hub is providing support is by making sure small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the waste management sector have access to up-to-date market intelligence.

To help us provide this service we have recently commissioned market research into commercial and industrial (C&I) waste in  Greater Manchester. We focused on C&I waste because the municipal (household) waste arising are handled by local authorities under one contract with Viridor-Laing (with the exception of Wigan).

The research was undertaken by Eunomia, experts in the waste industry who developed a methodology to estimate the amount of waste arising in Greater Manchester, which is notoriously difficult to calculate. 

The analysis suggests that businesses in Greater Manchester produce 1.8 million tonnes of C&I waste each year. The business sector that contributes the largest share of this is the retail and wholesale sector (26.5%), followed by other services (15%) and the food, drink and tobacco sector (14.7%).

Figure E-1: Estimated Composition of C&I Waste (Tonnes) 

The data also suggests that some 45% of Greater Manchester’s C&I waste is straightforwardly recyclable. Within the material stream categorised as ‘minor waste streams’ will be a good deal of material that has the potential for beneficial use, including wood, textiles and waste electronic, along with other more difficult material streams to recycle such as wood and sanitary waste. Within the non-recyclable waste, we have included non-specific categories of waste such as “miscellaneous combustibles”.

As already noted Brexit will cause a period of uncertainty, but regardless of the direction policy many larger businesses are taking their own measures to improve their environmental performance, which may in turn have a substantial impact on the type and quantity of waste management services they require. Some important developments identified in the report that businesses should be aware of are:

  • The increased use of 3D printing
  • The increased use of composite materials
  • The increased use of leasing and service models

The report concludes there are significant opportunities for the SME sector in Greater Manchester to explore that are likely to be viable, which could include: providing services to help businesses, particularly smaller businesses to manage their waste streams; jointly marketing services to improve economies of scale and increase take or developing new services to respond to changes in waste composition that may arise. 

It is hoped that the information about the waste arisings, issues affecting the industry and future trends will provide useful information for business planning and strategy for companies in the waste sector.  The Business Growth Hub advisors will use this information to supplement our existing knowledge of the waste sector in Greater Manchester and use it is part of our service to companies in the low carbon and environmental goods and services sector. 

An executive summary of this report is available to download for members of the Low Carbon Network. 

The Hub offers a range of specialist environmental services including eco-innovation, energy efficiency and low carbon sector support. Just Enquire and Grow to get started.


Vicky Wilding

Vicky Wilding, Low Carbon Sector Advisor

Vicky has over seven years' experience working in the low carbon and environmental goods and service (LCEGS) sector, both commercially and as a business support advisor assisting in the development and growth of companies in the sector. Vicky has a sound understanding of the LCEGS sector and its capabilities and specialises in supporting companies in the sector to identify new opportunities and raise their profile in Greater Manchester. Vicky holds a Master's degree in Landscape Planning and Management.

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