Recycling and recovery

Home Movers: Research reveals Brits could be throwing away up to £150m worth of stuff each year when moving home

  • SUEZ survey shows average value of items disposed of during the moving process tops £80 – which could amount to an estimated £150m per year
  • More than 9 in 10 of those moving home actively seek preloved items when outfitting their new homes, while half have undertaken repairs during their previous moves
  • Local councils can enhance the accessibility of re-use and repair services within their communities by providing greater access to information

The circular economy could hold the key to reducing the strain on budgets for thousands of people across the country, as new research released today shows that Brits could be disposing of more than £150m worth of items every year when moving home.

With mortgages soaring, and rents rising at their highest rate since 2016, the need to reduce the cost of moving is greater than ever for many in the UK. By embracing the circular economy through repair and re-use practices, people can reduce unnecessary waste and achieve even greater savings in times of rising living costs. Re-use shops at household waste recycling centres, where pre-loved, repaired and refurbished items can be bought by local residents, are also helping to save families who use them an average of £140, balancing out some of the financial strain when moving homes.

Results of the survey, conducted by SUEZ recycling and recovery UK among 1,000 people who have moved home over the past 12 months demonstrate that, on average, people are throwing away around £85 (£83.78) worth of possessions during the moving process. Based on the latest figures from the English Housing Survey, which highlighted 1.8 million had moved home in the previous 12 months, this could add up to a staggering £150m a year in England alone.

Far from reflecting a throw-away culture the research reveals a desire to extend the lifespan of household items – with more than half (51%) of people fixing broken or damaged goods rather than throwing them out during their last move. Of those who didn’t consider repairing their items, a lack of time (44%), the cost of repair services (44%), and a lack of knowledge or skills to repair items (39%) were cited as the most common barriers to doing so. When replacing or buying additional items for the home, more than 9 in 10 (91%) actively seek out preloved items.

Alongside charity shops, online second-hand sites and community repair groups, re-use shops at household waste recycling centres offer opportunities to give items that are fit for re-use after being cleaned and repaired a second chance at life. For local communities, re-use shops can provide access to quality pre-loved and refurbished goods at more affordable prices.

The research further demonstrates that the majority (55%) of respondents feel it would help them if they had access to further information about repair and re-use services, creating an opportunity for councils to support the re-use and repair movement in their local areas, complementing efforts and initiatives by the government, the third sector, and private organisations.

Sarah Ottaway, Sustainability and Social Value Lead at SUEZ recycling and recovery UK commented: “Moving home is becoming increasingly expensive - even before you consider the cost of disposing of, replacing, and buying new items. The circular economy empowers consumers to not only cut waste but save money through by getting the most out of the items they already have and choosing pre-loved items when looking for something new for their home. It’s great to see the research reveal a genuine desire by Brits to extend the life of their belongings.

“To meet this demand, we're proactively engaging with councils to share our knowledge and insights through regular webinars, meetings and site visits. The goal of our work is to promote re-use and repair and ultimately, support councils to achieve more sustainable outcomes for their communities.”

First-time buyers Evelyn Ryan and her partner dedicated 18 months to a DIY flat renovation, prioritising reuse, recycling, and second-hand materials. They crafted a coffee table from an old tree branch, re-upholstered dining chairs, and created bespoke furniture like a window seat, bedside tables, and a sink unit from scaffold boards. Evelyn shared her perspective:

"Our main motivation for DIY and embracing second-hand options was driven by cost. Despite our excitement about buying our first home and taking on this project, we were taken aback by how quickly costs added up, especially during a time of increasing living costs. We soon realised that things become significantly more budget-friendly if you're willing to invest some time in repairs.

“We’re also big fans of the idea that we’re giving something another lease of life. It's not just about saving money; it's about breathing fresh life into something and preserving its character and history for someone else to enjoy in the future.”

Drawing from over a decade of experience in re-use, with 30 re-use shops at household waste recycling centres across the UK and the award-winning Renew Hub in partnership with Greater Manchester Combined Authority focusing on repair and upcycling, SUEZ is committed to shaping a future where re-use and repair is more mainstream.