When Bill Edwards sold his computer company in 1992, he spent the next year working on his golf handicap. Then he was introduced to Julian Watts, a former merchant seaman. Watts had the idea for a business importing German and Dutch waste compactors, which were more efficient than anything available in Britain. At the time most firms were keeping waste in massive bins. Hauliers would pick it up and compact it themselves. Since they were paid per route, it was hardly in their interest to compact it efficiently. But if a customer such as Alder Hey hospital, for example, invested in one of the new systems to compact its own waste, it could cut its rubbish-disposal bill by 50%. Sales at Environmental Waste Controls, set up in 1993 at Widnes, have increased 115% a year from £309,000 in 1997 to £3.1m in 2000, when it had 46 staff. More recently the firm has expanded its service, renting compactors to the likes of Safeway and Tesco, and delivering compacted waste to landfill sites. Edwards believes that his company, which he set up in his back bedroom, has effectively broken the ‘cartel’ operated by hauliers and compactor makers. And he plans to take on the big waste hauliers such as Biffa and UK Waste by expanding to Leeds, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Wales in the next five years.
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