Waste management expert and FACTS columnist Timothy Byrne remembers the days when Cartaways, Clugston Reclamation, Leigh Environmental, and A.Smith and Sons (Waste Disposal) could be found across the Black Country. Do you?

All these waste disposal companies used to be a familiar sight on the Black Country’s roads. How did these companies develop across the Black Country and, more to the point, where did they go?

Cartaways was Stourbridge based, and was started by the late Norman Cartwright who already owned and operated a transport business. He purchased his first new chain lift type skip loader in the 1960’s from Meiller in Germany which was mounted onto a Dodge chassis. The company grew quickly and more skip loader vehicles were added to the fleet.

By the 1980’s, Cartaways had been sold to Little Heywood Transport of Burton Upon Trent. After the sale, Little Heywood Transport retained the Cartaways name as it was a recognised brand across the Black Country. The fleet expanded from using conventional type chain lift skip loaders to hook lifts (roll-on-offs) and industrial rear end loaders. Rear end loaders were a mobile compaction vehicle and more cost-effective than the conventional chain lift skip lorry. A rear end loader could compress and collect six to eight skip loads of waste compared to the conventional chain lift skip lorry having to make six to eight separate journeys. Fuel savings, maintenance costs and overall efficiencies were achieved once the rear end loaders had been added to the fleet. Liquid waste vacuum tankers for the collection of hazardous and non-hazardous wastes were also added to the fleet.

Cartaways expanded from Stourbridge, with depots opening in Birmingham, Coventry, Burton upon Trent and Mountsorrel-Leicestershire. The company also opened a number of controlled landfill sites. In the mid 1980’s, Leigh Interests-Leigh Environmental acquired Little Heywood Transport and Cartaways integrating both companies’ operations into Leigh’s Black Country, West Midlands and Derbyshire operating divisions. Little Heywood Transport and Cartaway’s dry and liquid waste vehicle fleets were repainted into the familiar ‘Leigh’ green colour scheme.

Clugston Reclamation
Clugston Reclamation (originally known as ‘Recomet’) operated a depot in Moor Street, Brierley Hill with a mixed fleet of vehicles such as dumpsters, chain lift skip loaders, industrial rear end loaders, hook lifts and articulated bulk tippers. Clugston also operated a 13 acre sand quarry as a controlled landfill site near Kingswinford. One of Clugston’s major waste disposal contracts was collecting industrial waste from the Round Oak Steelworks in Brierley Hill. In the mid 1980’s, GKN Brambles-Cleanaway, the UK’s largest waste management company at the time, acquired Clugston Reclamation’s nationwide operating assets including Brierley Hill. The Brierley Hill depot was closed and all vehicles and staff were transferred to Cleanaway’s Coventry Road depot in Birmingham.

Leigh Environmental
Leigh Interests plc-Leigh Environmental originated from the Leonard Leigh group of companies and had its Head Office at Lindon Road in Brownhills. The company was led by the late Malcolm Wood who operated a number of subsidiary companies such as Effluent Disposal and Waste Plan, with depots at Kingswinford, Birmingham and Brownhills. Eventually all these companies were rebranded as Leigh Environmental and the trucks were painted in the Leigh green colour scheme and new logo,
a flower crest. The Leigh green colour was chosen by Estintina Wood, Malcom’s wife.

Leigh specialised in liquid and dry waste collection and operated several collection depots as well as hazardous and non-hazardous waste treatment plants across the region.
The company grew through acquisition e.g. acquiring Little Heywood Transport Burton Upon Trent and Cartaways in the Black Country area and companies such as Salop Waste Disposal and Wellings Waste Management in Shropshire. The company also provided municipal waste collection services under its subsidiary Leigh Kleen for the local authorities of East Staffordshire, Leominster and South Oxfordshire. Leigh Interests sold its Leigh Kleen subsidiary in the early 1990’s to UK Waste Management Ltd. The company later re-entered the municipal market under the Leigh Environmental brand and won back its contract at South Oxfordshire and also won a new municipal contract with South Staffordshire. When Malcolm Wood died in 1993, the company appointed a new Shaun Bowden as its new Chief Executive. Leigh continued to grow across the UK and provided a diverse range of waste management services to both industry and the public sector.

Leigh Interests was acquired in the summer of 1997 by Compagnie Generale des Eau-ONYX, one of France’s largest waste management companies.

A.Smith and Sons (Waste Disposal)
A.Smith and Sons (Waste Disposal), whose lorries, with their red diamond logo, were once a familiar sight across the streets of the Black Country, were based at Chimney Road in Great Bridge. Originally coke and coal merchants, the company diverted into the collection of industrial waste and operated a fleet of dry waste collection vehicles such as chain lift skip vehicles, roll-on-offs and industrial rear end loaders. The company operated an outdoor waste transfer station at the Chimmey Road site, licensed to handle both municipal and industrial waste. Sandwell MBC used to deliver waste to the site for onward transport to controlled landfill sites.

In the mid 1990’s Smiths built an indoor waste transfer station and invested heavily in the development of its Chimney Road operations. The company added a front end loader collection vehicle and fleet of containers to offer its commercial and industrial customers an alternative option to the traditional rear end loader collection system.

In 1998, UK Waste Management Ltd acquired A. Smith and Sons (Waste Disposal) Ltd, which gave them an excellent fleet of vehicles, a modern waste transfer station and an operating base to expand their presence across the Black Country. And so, the last independent Black Country waste operator vanished.

By the late 1990’s, all those well-known names had disappeared from the Black Country, swallowed up in mergers and buy-outs by larger, nationwide companies and sadly, can no longer be seen working hard to remove the industrial waste of the old Black Country firms, which, all too often, have vanished with them.

Timothy would like to hear from anyone who may have photographs of trucks operated by the above companies as well as from any other old Black Country waste disposal businesses which no longer exist.


Tim has previously written a book titled ‘A Pictorial History of Biffa Waste Services Dry and Liquid Waste Collection Vehicles’. The book covers all of Biffa’s dry and liquid waste collection vehicles operated from the late 1970’s up to the 2000’s as well as all of Biffa’s key acquisitions over this period and the trucks that the acquisition companies operated too.’

This article originally appeared in FACTS 131. To read the magazine in full: