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Feature: Growth rate

The beginning of the year heralded a merger between two companies that has created a £20 million business and one of the UK's biggest suppliers of specialist containers to the waste management and recycling industry.

The deal between Straight and Blackwall was seen as inevitable by Straight's chief executive Jonathan Straight: "For the past five years, Straight and Blackwall were growing in the same direction and competing fiercely. For some time I knew that one would prevail and buy the other. This was the motivation, but I had no idea that it would come about so quickly. In 2003 we came to market and, less than a year later, the deal was done and it went like clockwork."

Straight's own background was as a consultant developing environmental products. This, he says, gave him a good insight into the market and is when he recognised the potential of this area. But the company did not run with the idea, choosing instead to focus on materials handling. It was at this point that Straight decided to strike out on his own.

"Once the decision was made, things got more interesting," he says. "Turnover grew, we hired more people, got bigger premises and things expanded significantly."

Both Straight and Blackwall are suppliers of container solutions for source-segregated waste to local authorities, waste management companies, community sector organisations and private sector businesses. Both also supply end users with a comprehensive range of home and garden products including compost bins and water butts.

Straight says that while the merger has brought about some criticism of what may be perceived as market domination, ultimately the deal has created increased choice. "This critical mass means that we can deliver vast quantities in a short time and provide extended choice. We have always sold what has been needed and now the portfolio has expanded," he says.

The company has gone into an accelerated programme of product development, and Straight says that there are a dozen products under development at any one time, including accessories and variations to existing products. Both CIWM and RWM will see product launches. The range on offer is certainly being made full use of by the company's local authority partners - Straight says a contract worth £1.8m signed last year with Bexley demonstrates this.

"Bexley uses every resource we have available," continues Straight, "from wheeled bins to kitchen caddies, all of which we home delivered. The bins have a radio frequency tag and the boxes are barcoded, and we promoted home composting while we were delivering. We provide a contact centre, the hardware and the software, and this shows that we truly are a one-stop shop."

Straight's close work with the Somerset Waste Partnership over refining the design of kitchen caddies also resulted in a successful tender: "We were ready to tool up for a kitchen bin and had worked quite closely with Somerset. It had to go to tender and we also had to commit to the product, but it has run to this day and we are developing on the theme."

The successful design adaptation means that 20,000 of the caddies are being distributed in the next phase, with up to 140,000 units to be delivered during the course of the next year.

Straight says the company is continuing to look at solutions for kitchen waste recycling, kerbside boxes to make them more handlable and manoeuvrable and is also pushing forward with four- wheeled bins."Organic waste is very much in vogue at the moment, and we w

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