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Thinking inside the box

Dec 08, 2016
Deputy Editor David Jordan takes a trip to Birmingham to meet Sadlers and find out why reusing rather than recycling makes sense.



It was in the grim post war days of the 1950s when Harry Sadler realised the value of reusing redundant packaging materials from Birmingham’s diverse industries.  Now over 60 years later, and in its third generation of family ownership, the business is still flourishing and Harry’s vision of giving used boxes a second life is proving more popular than ever. 

As I turned into Sadlers’ yard, nestling by the side of Birmingham City’s St Andrew’s stadium, a curtain sider was being loaded with pallets of used corrugated boxes neatly wrapped in cellophane ready for delivery.  After the usual signing in formalities I chatted with Mark Sadler, Harry’s great grandson, about how the business operates and why using used boxes makes good business sense.   

“Basically we do the same as Harry did when he first started the business,” said Mark. “Back then his main line was wooden ammunition boxes - there were lots of those in Birmingham - and tea chests, rather than cardboard, but the principal is still the same.  We buy used boxes from factories who need to dispose of them after the contents have been used in production or taken into stock. This means they don’t have to bale and store them and they also get a better price than selling the cardboard for scrap,” said Mark. 

Before visiting Sadlers I watched a video on the firm’s website that demonstrates the apparent absurdity of recycling cardboard boxes.  The video tracks the path of a box from the original user disposing of it after use, to the finished, recycled product.  

“All the material ends up being made back into new boxes, so if they’re still in good condition it make more sense to simply reuse them,” said Mark. “It’s a bit of a play on words, but we call it ‘thinking inside the box’.’’ 

Customers reusing boxes from Sadlers benefit from much lower prices and are not at the mercy of continually fluctuating prices caused by increases in the cost of raw materials. This is particularly relevant at the moment with paper prices increasing steeply following the drop in the value of the pound. 

However, used boxes are not suitable for everyone; they may still carry the original user’s branding for example, or not be the ideal size for a particular purpose. But for most applications, including many in the removals industry, they are ideal and represent a significant saving. 

For those who prefer to use new stock, Sadlers also carry a full range of high quality boxes as well as specialist products such as cardboard wardrobes, pack 1 & pack 2 boxes and general packaging materials for the moving industry.  

“We have many removal companies collecting boxes from us here in Birmingham and we deliver all over the UK using our own vehicles with the support of hired transport,” said Mark. “People can order online or simply call us to arrange a delivery or to collect an order themselves. We will also deliver on line orders directly to the removal firm’s customer ahead of a move.”  

In our modern ‘green aware’ society, reducing waste both in our private and business lives is part of our everyday routine.  In the 1950s when Harry Sadler started his business the world was not so enlightened.  He was obviously a man of considerable vision, a man who thought outside - or should that be inside - the box. 

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