Cleaning, hygiene and waste industry remains in the UK top ten, says new research

New research released by the British Cleaning Council (BCC) has cemented the cleaning, hygiene and waste sector’s position as one of the UK’s top ten industries.

The BCC’s research report for 2021 was released today and gives a highly-detailed picture of the sector.

The latest, revised figures show that the industry contributed £55.5 billion to the UK economy in 2018 – a slight rise on previous figures – with turnover soaring in a sector with tens of thousands of businesses.

The latest employment data available, from 2020, shows that there are 1.47 million workers in the sector, approximately five percent of the UK workforce and firmly in the top ten UK industries for employment.

Other more recent figures show the varying effect the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns have had on some parts of the industry, with demand soaring in some areas while others saw demand shrink.

The report also testifies to the change in public attitudes which has put cleaning and hygiene at the top of the agenda and brought widespread recognition for the vital work of the sector’s previously invisible workforce.

Chairman of the BCC, Paul Thrupp, said: “Once again, our annual research report provides some fascinating insights into the cleaning, hygiene and waste sector.

“It testifies to the huge size and importance of the sector, which is one of the ten biggest in the UK and is a huge contributor to the UK economy.

“There are early indications of the impact of the pandemic on the sector, with different parts of the industry being affected in different ways.

“During the pandemic, many cleaning and hygiene operatives have continued to do vital work, protecting the health and wellbeing of others, while often putting themselves at risk. The public recognises and values this contribution.

“Increased awareness of the importance of cleaning and hygiene means our industry will continue to play a vital role as the UK recovers from the pandemic and into the future. I believe the outlook going forward is very positive.“

The BCC issues a yearly research report on the industry, including national data it has collated. Some of the data available for this year’s report has not been updated by national sources due to the pandemic.

The latest data available, from 2018, demonstrates the strength of the industry, with turnover having increased 30 per cent in the previous five years, a rate much greater than all UK economic growth of 13 per cent.

The industry continued to grow up to 2020, with 66,420 businesses operating, up from nearly 60,000 in 2016, the report says.

Other figures from 2020 show the size of the industry overall. If occupations that involve cleaning and hygiene across other industries such as public services and hospitality are added to the staff directly employed in the sector, the total number of individuals working in the industry is similar to the transport and storage sector at 1.47 million, the report says. It is too early to say for sure but the figure might be slightly down on last year due to the early impact of the pandemic.

Figures from February 2020 to February 2021 show the different impact the pandemic has had in differing parts of the industry

  • the monthly GDP of services to buildings and landscape activities was 13 percent below the February 2020 level
  • waste collection treatment and disposal activities grew at 3.4 per cent over the same time period
  • manufacture of soap and detergent, cleaning and polishing perfumes and toilet preparations grew by 1.2 per cent during that period.

The report highlights the growing importance the public puts on cleaning in public spaces.  For example, research in the UK found that:

  • 61 percent of people who responded said that seeing cleaning and hygiene operatives in public spaces makes them feel that safety measures are being taken seriously
  • 45 percent agreed that the visibility of cleaning in progress would encourage them to return to an office space, shopping centre or airport.

The report also highlights the role the newly-established All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the UK Cleaning and Hygiene industry will play going forward in areas such as supporting the development of a recognised and universal training accreditation for the industry and raising industry concerns about the availability of labour in the future due to the Immigration Act and Brexit.

For an electronic copy of the report, email

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