The History of the Skip

The modern day skip has undergone a series of revolutionary developments over the past century. It was once little more than a clump of waste being lugged to a dumping ground via horsepower. Nowadays, skips are easy to transport and provide ample space to hold waste of all type and size. This article is going to delve into the rich history of the skip, and find out exactly how the skip reached the point it’s at today.

Where did the skip get its name?

The etymology of the skip is not entirely clear. The closest relative we can find is the ‘skep’. Now an archaic term, the word ‘skep’ once meant ‘basket’ and was used particularly in two industries. The first is beekeeping; beekeepers would use portable wicker baskets known as a ‘skep’ to house and transport bees before the modern beehive was invented.

The second industry was coal mining. Coal miners would use baskets to store the coal they collected. As coal mining methods advanced and the the production of coal increased, these baskets were replaced with metal containers. It is likely that these metal ‘skeps’, which somewhat resemble the skips of today, are where the skip derived its name from.

Horse-drawn carts

Waste disposal in the 1920s consisted of little more than horse-drawn carts carrying waste to the local dumping ground. Initially this was a fairly efficient process, but the job grew more and more strenuous as the population grew. Not only was there more waste to collect, but new houses were being built far away from the unsanitary conditions of dumps as people made the connection between waste and disease. This made horse-drawn waste disposal too difficult to continue.

The Pagefield System

Edwin Walker, of the lorry manufacturer Pagefield, put wheels on a metal container to create a skip that could be wheeled onto the back of a truck and carried longer distances than what was previously possible with horses. This came to be known as the ‘Pagefield System’.

The Freighter System

The Pagefield System gained a lot of traction, and rival companies started copying and modernising the system with their own vehicles. Shelvoke and Drewery, a British manufacturer of specialised commercial vehicles, developed a truck solely for the purpose of collecting and disposing of waste. This was known as the ‘Freighter’, and its main benefit was that it was petrol operated, meaning it could carry more waste and travel farther distances than was previously able.

Dempster Dumpster

The aptly named Dempster Dumpster was the next advancement of the waste disposal system. In 1935, brothers George, Thomas and John Dempster invented a hydraulic winch to lift the container directly and from the back of the truck without the laborious manpower that was needed before.

Modern day Dumpster

The Dempster Dumpster set the frameworks for the modern waste disposal system of today. We now use large waste vehicles to collect, crush and dispose of waste automatically. Skips can be collected and the waste disposed of using similar large winches and vehicle mechanisms.

In terms of the containers themselves, certain developments have been made in modern times to ensure strict levels of safety. Skips are now ubiquitous as red or yellow trapezoids. The colours have been chosen for visibility, as to alert passersby that there may likely be heavy machinery around. The shape itself has been specifically designed for easy use, collection and disposal.

Here at Enfield Skips, we have a comprehensive understanding about skips, from their history, to their design, to the laws surrounding them. We use our expertise to provide you with a hassle-free skip hire service, including offering skips of all different sizes and sorting out skip permits on your behalf. To enquire further, give our friendly team a call today.