The British Plastics Federation (BPF) has issued a statement highlighting the key role being played by the UK plastics industry in the fight against COVID-19.
Companies, said the trade association, are going to great lengths to meet sudden spikes in demand for key products, from medical packaging to components for ventilators.
It also noted that it has been fielding daily enquiries from a huge range of organisations, including the UK government, Scottish Government and Welsh Government. These have included over 35 urgent calls for materials, bottles, lids, visors and components for ventilators, amongst others.
Plastics companies have found themselves under unprecedented pressure and many have managed to alter their typical manufacturing schedules to produce essential products at breakneck speed. Some companies are providing supplies to the NHS at cost price, despite pressures on their own businesses.
The association zeroed in on a few concrete examples, citing the efforts of Rutland Plastics, who, according to Rutland MP Alicia Kearns, should be “rightly recognised for simply outstanding national spirit”, after the company began producing medical equipment for the Nightingale Ward Hospital at the ExCel Centre.
Vacuum cleaner manufacturer Numatic has developed and manufactured face shields in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Its face shield is currently in use at the Worcestershire NHS Trust, West Midlands Ambulance Service, Birmingham Children’s Hospital and The Gibraltar Health Authority.
Polystar Plastics has announced it will donate £5 to the NHS for every tonne of its new PCWflex material sold in 2020.
Companies like Leeds-based plastic bag manufacturer Cromwell Polythene are providing vital products such as refuse and recycling sacks to key industries, as well as manufacturing clinical waste sacks, gloves and aprons.
Some manufacturers have shifted to 24/7 production and are using innovations like the Intouch i4 Cloud to facilitate this, to allow unmanned production during the weekend, increasing production whilst keeping their staff safe.
The dire shortage of medical packaging, hand sanitiser bottles and lids and hand sanitiser has resulted in extraordinary accomplishments. INEOS announced on 24 March that it would build a hand sanitiser plant in just ten days that was capable of producing one million bottles per month. The company not only delivered on this promise but has meanwhile built three more plants – 2 in France and one in Germany – to help meet demand for hand sanitiser.
UL has been offering Safety Data Sheets (SDS) free of charge, which are required by companies manufacturing and shipping hand sanitisers. It is also offering free ‘pandemic awareness’ courses.
To help the plastics industry get all the information it needs, the BPF has also made its webinars available for everyone to attend, although only its members will have access to the recordings. These webinars cover everything from energy management during partial shutdowns to the impact of COVID-19 on polymer supply.