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Office Clearance Advice

Among the things you need to consider when embarking on an office clearance are:

1. What do you want to keep? Decide what you want to keep – and take these items away, presumably to the new office. Only leave the items in the (old) office that want taken away and disposed of. Not only is this ‘neater’ but it makes it easier for the professionals - who’ll be clearing the office - to give an accurate estimate of the cost involved. It also makes it easier for them to carry out the office clearance.

2. Do things in good time Try to give the office clearance professionals as much time as possible in which to do their work. This reduces pressure on them – and you – and helps to ensure that things go smoothly to plan and with the minimum of fuss. Of course, the larger the office to be cleared, the longer the amount of time you should schedule for the work to be done.

It’s usually fair to estimate that it will take a week for contractors to prepare and provide their quote for the work. Then, it’s likely to take one day for professional clearers to fill six ‘builders’ skips’ or three ‘Luton’ vans with things to be cleared.

3. Regulatory reporting and compliance You must ensure that the waste is disposed of properly – that is, legally and safely. Fly tipped or illegally exported waste can leave you liable to criminal charges and/or civil claims for damage caused to third parties.

So, you should complete a risk assessment for the office clearance project and you should check that the clearance company you want to engage to do the job:

  • Is a licensed waste carrier
  • Has suitable insurance
  • Has appropriate health and safety policies

Once the clearance work has begun, you need to receive a waste transfer note for each waste collection – be it per van load, skip or roll-on/ roll-off container – that’s made from your site.

The waste transfer note should state, among other things:

  • The date
  • The collection address
  • A description of the waste being removed
  • The volume and/or the weight of waste removed
  • The name of your organisation
  • The name of the waste contractor undertaking the collection

If there are any hazardous waste products being removed, you also need to receive a hazardous waste consignment note containing all these things, too. Hazardous waste includes such things as refrigerators, air-conditioning units, fluorescent lighting tubes and computer monitors.

Disposing of any waste electronics and electrical equipment (WEEE) is highly regulated. You should ensure that the clearance contractor you engage is qualified to handle these materials and can provide you with the required documents as well as evidence of where they take the WEEE.

If you’re letting items be reused or recycled, then these don’t count as ‘waste’ – and you don’t need a waste transfer note for them. Nonetheless – for the sake of your records -you should always ask for a receipt, detailing the items being taken for reuse or recycling; giving the date on which this has taken place, and naming the organisation for which they’re destined.

You should also be aware that it’s becoming usual for clearance contractors to provide you with a final report. This will state:

  • What was removed
  • Where it was taken
  • How much of it was reused – and this is likely to be itemised
  • How much of it was recycled – and this is likely to be described by its ‘waste type’ (such as ‘paper’), along with its overall weight and volume
  • How much of it was sent to landfill
  • Which waste facilities received each load of waste and the reported percentage landfill diversion rates for each of these facilities

4. What about selling or donating your unwanted things? Clearance contractors tend to be connected to a network of specialist dealers, recycling organisations and charities. These could well offer you an opportunity to enable, for example, office furniture and IT equipment to be reused rather than be merely thrown away. It’s worth discussing this option with the contractor.

Of course, the market for second hand office furniture is volatile – even capricious – so the time and effort involved in trying to sell your old furniture could prove to be prohibitive.

You might do better in terms of your old – but working – IT equipment. Computers can be re-sellable but old computer monitors (CRTs) and items containing refrigerants (CFCs) – such as air conditioning units and refrigerators – are considered to be hazardous waste. So they need to be disposed of, carefully, in a prescribed way.

5. Make sure you get the right clearance contractor There are four key criteria for selecting the right contractor:

  • References – make sure that the company you select has recent experience of this type of work
  • Resources – ensure that the contractors have the resources available to do the job
  • Rapport – you need to feel comfortable not just with the sales staff (your initial contact with the contractor’s company) but also with the operatives who’re going to carry out the clearance.
  • Rates – once the other three criteria have been met, you can turn your attention to the cost. Ensure that you get comparable quotations – and also look at the cost per vehicle load; the capacity of the vehicles being used, and how many loads the contractors estimate that they’ll need to complete the job. This final figure will give you an indication of how experienced the contractor is.

An unrealistically low estimate of the volume of things to be cleared will appear to give you a low price for the job. However, this will lead to project overruns, requests for extra payments and unnecessary stress.

The contractor should separate the items to be cleared – before removal – into groups, such as paper, metal, wood and ‘mixed waste’. The contractor should also be identifying the materials to be reused, recycled and/or re-sold – or passed to a charity.

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