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King's Award for International Trade

Sackers: Turning scrap metal into gold for nearly 100 years 

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 Sackers - transforming the way we view scrap metal and waste recycling,

Sackers in Ipswich has been a key part of the UK’s “circular economy” from its very beginnings. 

The family-led scrap metal and waste recycling firm has been in business for nearly 100 years, making it the fifth oldest in the country. 

“Our markets are all over the world,” says chief executive David Dodds, which is why the firm has been recognised with a King’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade. 

Established in 1929, one of its claims to fame is being the only metal shredder in East Anglia. This allows the company to recycle 100% of the metal it takes in for scrap, which is then suitable for export around the globe.  

Over three decades ago, David picked up a directory of international metals companies and began faxing potential customers in India. The first one that responded is now a “very, very close personal friend”, he says. 

“We’ve been to their family’s weddings, we know their children, we’ve known them 20-plus years now. 

“Honestly, I had no idea what I was doing - zero idea. But I knew I had to learn. I knew this was the opportunity we should be looking at as a business. Maybe I just got lucky with the right people.” 

He admits his “hands are scarred with mistakes” but this enabled him and subsequently the team at the firm to get to grips with international markets. 

Sackers now ship out 60 containers a week of scrap processed to customer specifications. 

The firm does not handle metals just from East Anglia. David estimates the firm imports 800 tons of copper a month from around the world including Australia in order to meet global demand.  

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Over its two sites, the company processes 125,000 tons of scrap metal a year and handles 35,000 metric tons of industrial waste which is processed at its mixed commercial waste recycling plant.  

This has the capacity to divert 100% of waste from landfill and produces aggregate for construction, wood for biofuel, cardboard for paper recycling and the rest for refuse-derived fuel (RDF). It also has a facility designed to process PVC-covered copper cable, which returns secondary “granulated” copper and plastic. 

Its largest and most competitive market is China, where demand for raw materials outstrips supply.  

It has a network of sales agents in each of the countries it supplies including “indenting” agents in India and Pakistan who “look after our best interests”, says David, who highlights he’s built these networks over 20 years in the business. 

The firm’s biggest metal product remains steel. It processes 80-90,000 tons a year, mostly from cars. Sackers’s state-of-the-art factory takes 90 seconds to mill a car to fragments of steel, aluminium and tyre rubber as well as RDF. 

“It’s a bit James Bond-y. You will see a car go in one and does a load of stuff. Out the other end, you have the clean metal, then there’s the non-ferrous. In a car you’ll have the engine and the aluminium wheels. The plant is that clever.”

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