The BPF has written to key members of parliament, asking that large parts of our sector are classified as ‘key workers’ as the plastics industry plays a vital role within many industries and is necessary to help feed and house our nation, as well as to help manage its waste. Please see the full letter below.
To Whom it May Concern,
I am writing to you to call for the urgent introduction of measures to ensure the continued provision of essential household and pharmaceutical goods across the UK, as well as meeting key infrastructure demands.
Unless changes are made – in particular the recognition of key parts of the plastics sector as critical infrastructure – manufacturing industry will not be able to meet demand.
Key products supplied by the sector include:
- Packaging – crucial for the safe and secure supply of food
- Medical equipment – such as blood bags and syringes
- Pipes systems – facilitating the distribution of fresh, clean water
- Communications and energy supply systems
The BPF is witnessing critical item shortages and government action is needed to address this. For example, there have been estimates of an overall uplift in retail sales last weekend of between 600% and 800%.
This has massively increased demand for packaging in addition to other products.
Plastics packaging is a key example. It is used to ensure handwash, bleach, medicines and food and drink are hygienically and safely transported to retailers with minimal losses.
It is impossible for the supply chain to deliver these items without packaging.
The sector has been meeting a massive increase in demand for packaging for all the above items, with very high order increases for bleach, handwash, medicines and food and drink.
Having workers in these facilities is crucial in order to maintain an uninterrupted supply of products and services.
Whilst the plastics packaging industry employs over 20,000 people, only 18% have a role that permits them to work from home (for the wider plastics industry, of which there are 183,000, it is less than 25%).
We have already approached member companies and enquired about the products they are capable of producing (some by changing their current production).
This includes ventilators, facemasks, various equipment for healthcare workers, clinical refuse sacks, containers and bottles for hand sanitisers and soaps, infection control bags, clinical waste bins, anti-infection soluble laundry bags, and polythene sheeting.
Many UK manufacturers have clean rooms ensuring products can be produced in a hygienic environment.
Packaging companies and other key processors are reliant on a steady supply of raw materials (this includes polymer producers as well as manufacturers of masterbatch and key additives) and the polymer distributors who ensure the material reaches those in the supply chain.
The UK has a large (nearly 1000) concentration of moulders, who have flexibilities in their manufacturing, enabling them to produce mouldings for practically any sector.
Please also be aware that, after packaging, construction is the second largest user of plastics, where critical products include plastic pipe systems for both drinking water and drainage.
It is also crucial that waste management companies and recyclers continue to operate, not only to deal with the waste but to provide the much needed recycled material (the raw materials manufacturers producing in the UK can only meet approximately 50% of current overall demand).
Clearly as the situation moves forward, maintaining food, water and medical supplies will be crucial, as well as the maintenance of communications and energy distribution systems.
We urge the government to evaluate the consequences of closing key sites and to recognise that plastic manufacturers are part of the critical infrastructure of the UK.
Philip Law, Director General of British Plastics Federation
Published on bpf.co.uk
Plastics Trade Body Publishes First Study of Coronavirus Impact on UK Manufacturing
The British Plastics Federation (BPF) has surveyed its members to learn exactly how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting the plastics industry within the UK.
With 127 BPF members responding in just a few hours, the results provide an accurate picture of the UK’s third largest manufacturing sector at this unprecedented time.
Following a request from the UK government, the survey asked companies if they could potentially use their facilities to provide products and services that could be used by the NHS or the government to help fight the coronavirus.
Nearly a third of plastic companies said they could assist and their details have been passed on by the BPF.
Almost 80% of the companies surveyed expected a drop in turnover over the next six months, with 98% of those expressing concern over the coronavirus’s impact on business operations.
Almost 90% of responders said they expected the coronavirus to impact their supply chains over the next three months, while more than half stated that the coronavirus had impacted their staff’s ability to work.
Across the entire industry, 25% of the workforce could potentially work from home. Amongst plastics processors that number falls to 18%.
British Plastics Federation Director General Philip Law comments:
“I wrote to the government yesterday to explain why the plastics industry should be classified as a key part of the national infrastructure and that many of its workers and their skills are critical in the production of much needed products. It comes as no surprise that our members and our industry are expecting major challenges in the weeks and months ahead. This survey demonstrates that the plastics industry is a crucial, strategic industry playing a pivotal role in national security and in ensuring we as a country can effectively fight the coronavirus. We urge the government to provide the essential support to keep manufacturers and their supply chains in operation, so the nation can be safely fed, professionally cared for and that vital infrastructure, such as drainage and waste management is supported.”
The BPF has also created a COVID-19 webpage, which includes a guide for manufacturers intended to help limit the spread of the virus, alongside useful information from BEIS and Public Health England.
Published on bpf.co.uk