14 June 2020

Where Does “Man and Van” Get Its Name?

Read Time: 4 mins

It goes without saying that the majority of people in the UK have a pretty good idea of what a ‘Man and Van’ service is. But what many people might not know, is why ‘Man and Van’ clearances are actually known as ‘Man and Van’. As the UK’s largest ‘Man and Van’ style clearance company (with same-day and on-demand services available across the country) we felt obliged to answer. So, where does “Man and Van” get its name?

The original – and somewhat outdated – idea was that a customer could hire a van along with the man to drive, load and empty the van, without the customer having to get involved or hire multiple services. According to linguistics website Not One-Off Britishisms, The Times first coined the colloquialism in 1876, reporting; “The practice of the firm was to send to customers a man with a van.”

Back in 1876 however, the van in question would have been what the Oxford English Dictionary refers to as a “covered vehicle chiefly employed for the conveyance of goods, usually resembling a large wooden box with arched roof and opening from behind.” A far cry from a Ford Transit.

Initially, these ‘Man and Van’ services evolved in built-up and densely-populated cities where there were fewer cars and more people. Most tellingly, it was a term rising out of the sharply defined gender roles of the Victorian era. Just a few years after the National Society for Women’s Suffrage was founded in 1872, women were encouraged to stay at home and educate their offspring whilst their husbands went out to earn a living. Physical work and manual labour were seen as a permanent fixture of the males’ sphere, which made the ‘man’ aspect of ‘Man and Van’ an obvious pre-requisite.

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Man & Van or White Van Man?

The term ‘Man and Van’ later went on to include the more generalised term, ‘White Van Man’, which soon incorporated anything from a removals service to carpenters, electricians and communications engineers. BBC correspondent Michael Wendling unflatteringly referred to the ‘White Van Man’ as a “working class male usually employed in some sort of manual labour, avid reader of tabloids and connoisseur of full English breakfasts).”

Just as the ‘White Van Man’ stereotype was derivative and damaging, the term ‘Man and Van’ can unfortunately bring about distress if not used carefully. It’s no longer 1876 and whilst the ‘man and van’ terminology is still referenced for clarification across the waste management industry by customers and companies alike, the ideology has certainly changed.

‘Man & Van’ in Name Only

In 2018, a female applicant expressed her interest in a ‘Man and Van’ position (the official job title is Waste Removal Operative Driver and Labourer) with us here at Clearabee, but sent her CV through a separate recruitment provider.

Although completely at odds with Clearabee’s beliefs and employment policies, the individual involved then informed the female applicant that they were “only looking for male drivers/labourers for (the) Waste Removal Operative (position).”


Unbeknownst to the (now former) recruitment provider, Clearabee employed “several female Waste Removal Operatives across the UK as part of our growing team and welcome the benefits that this diversity brings.”

As a Clearabee spokesperson told The Sun newspaper; “This is the only instance of its kind that we are aware of and we have taken steps to ensure it does not happen again.”

Modern Man and Van Services

Clearabee’s rapid reaction rubbish removal services operate throughout the UK from over 100 locations. Our teams can clear a variety of waste streams, ranging from a single bulky item to lighter waste streams and are often available for clearances on the very same day.

Once en route, our clearance teams send customers an SMS to keep them up to date and take ‘Before and After’ photographs to document what waste is being collected and the satisfactory state of the site at the end of the job. Once the waste has been taken to a local Waste Transfer Station, the customer is sent a digital Waste Transfer Note, which forms a record of what has been disposed of and where.

As well as giving the customer confidence that their waste has been disposed of responsibly, the Waste Transfer Note also describes how much of the collection has been diverted from landfill or recycled. On average, Clearabee diverts over 95% of the rubbish we collect from landfill.


Clearabee like to go that little bit further for the environment too. Our fleet of ultra-light vehicles produce less carbon emissions, which we offset even further with real-time driver behavior monitoring to ensure efficient travelling. Also add to that our reforestation project, which has seen 19,674 trees planted over the last two years, aiding the creation of two new UK forests.

If you’re looking for a modern ‘Man and Van-style’ clearance service, then give Clearabee a call.

Removing rubbish. It’s (just a little bit of) what we do.



About Clearabee

Clearabee operates nationwide on demand rubbish clearance and waste removal services, with over 120 vehicles and 300 directly employed staff. Our core services include our industry-leading rubbish clearance service as well as our skip bag, skip hire and sofa removal services.

Clearabee has been ranked as the fastest-growing waste management company in Europe for 3 years running and featured on The Sunday Times Virgin Atlantic Fast Track for the last two years.

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