UPAC combines secondhand box businesses

Scott: "I have never seen anything like the demand we have now"
Scott: "I have never seen anything like the demand we have now"

Independent packaging supplier UPAC Group has combined two of its businesses into one division to create what it claims is the UK’s largest secondhand box merchant.

The Glasgow-headquartered business has brought together Scotia Surplus Boxes and WM Watson Packaging to become the new Eco Box division of the group.

UPAC said that, due to unprecedented increases in cardboard prices and shortages in the cardboard industry driven by the lockdowns and online retail, it had “never been so busy” and the combination of these two businesses under one roof would help to support the industry with secondhand boxes.

Billy Scott, general manager of the new Eco Box division, said: “WM Watson has been my whole working life [40 years], but I have never seen anything like the demand we have now. WM Watson buys the used boxes from companies, select those boxes that are reusable, and then resell them. It’s a win/win/win.”

Eco Box said companies that would have previously paid to have their waste boxes taken away for disposal now get paid a premium for the boxes as they are sold as a commodity.

Customers, meanwhile, get heavily discounted boxes without suffering from lead times and price increases, and Eco Box makes a major sustainability contribution by reusing the boxes previously earmarked for waste.

“The greenest thing you can do with a box is reuse it. Most of my customers would rather save some money, and the planet, than worry about the branding on a box,” said Scott.

“The statement they are making is that you don’t have to have branded boxes to impress your customers and the feedback is that people love it.”

He added: “For any companies out there that bale their used cardboard, they need to rethink this approach.

“Why not get paid for the boxes and add a new income stream to your accounts? It doesn’t just make our suppliers extra money, but you are helping hold down the costs of thousands of small home-start businesses that buy these used boxes and save the planet all at the same time.”

A collective of family-run packaging businesses, UPAC Group’s other companies include UPAC Cartons, Peter Bryson Packaging, Merlin Healthcare Packaging, U-Label-It, and We-Pac.

Nine staff currently work at the new Eco Box division, while the UPAC Group as a whole employs 62 staff and has a turnover of £12m.

The group told Printweek it has now started a recruitment process “to employ a variety of new staff to the group” and hopes to continue to bring jobs “into our relatively deprived area in Glasgow”.