Plastics have become an essential part of our day-to-day life. Their versatility, as well as their cost-benefits relationship, transformed the industries around the world. So, it’s no surprise that the global plastic production has been increasing in the last 60 years.
Just in 2018, 359 million metric tons of plastic were produced globally, against the 1.5 million metric tons that were produced in 1950. China is the largest plastic producer country in the world and plastic imports from China into the U.S. have notoriously grown in the last decade .
Two of the largest plastic producing companies are American (Dow Chemical) and Chinese (Hanwool Corporation). Other massive companies include Lyondellbasell, Ihne & Tesch, Exxonmobil, and SABIC .
Nevertheless, there are hundreds of thousands of plastic-related companies in most countries, from producers, manufacturers to distributors and retailers, and a vast majority of them have been touched, at different levels by the current COVID-19 pandemic.
On March 11th, 2020, the World Health Organization officially declared the COVID-19 a pandemic, and since then, every country has applied different measures. This post will introduce you to some of the affectations, challenges, and forecasts for the plastic industry during this pandemic.
COVID-19 affectations to the plastic manufacturing companies
The plastic industry has been hit mainly, as a result of the COVID-19, by cancellations, shipping complications due to travel and commercial restrictions, and work-from-home regulations established throughout the world.
Affectations to plastic manufacturing companies cause, in turn, supply chain impacts for diverse industries, such as consumer durables, retail, packaging, automobiles, electronics, and two of the most active industries during this pandemic: food and healthcare.
Many important plastic-related events have been postponed, canceled or transformed into virtual meetings, like Antec 2020, a premier knowledge-sharing and networking event, organized by the Society of Plastics Engineers, which was moved to a digital event.
On March 13, the U.S. Plastics Industry Association canceled its board meeting in Washington D.C. and Messe Düsseldorf, a packaging trade show, was pushed from May 7-13 to early 2021 .
Besides canceled events, there are effects on production. The British Plastics Federation (BPF) conducted a survey, first of its kind, from March 17 to 19 amongst its members, 127 companies, in which almost half of them declared that the coronavirus had affected their supply chains.
Some companies mentioned delays in shipping mainly from China, while others highlighted delays in deliveries from European countries. 88% of these companies think that until June they expect their supply chains to be affected.
An overwhelming 98% of the BPF companies expressed an important concern about the impact in a 6-month term .
These are just a few examples of how the COVID-19 has struck the plastic industry in general, with staff problems being another of the main issues around this situation, caused by the politics of work-from-home and vulnerable population protection.
Plastic manufacturing companies: a key role amidst the COVID-19 pandemic
However, not everything is bad for the plastic industry, or at least not for all the branches. Along with the safety recommendations and measures, many plastic manufacturing companies have been working at full in order to satisfy the high demand for certain products.
The demand for components, equipment, and packaging for the health services and food industry has skyrocketed, so in spite of adversities, plastic manufacturing companies try to cope with the crisis.
Some companies have even altered their production in order to help the health services, for example, almost a third of the BPF companies declared they can manufacture products for their National Health System and the UK Government and offered to provide assistance if required .
Likewise, Indiana-based Berry Global Group Inc. stated on a press release that it had shifted capacity to the maximum output of materials for products like disinfectant wipes, N95 respirators, and face masks. This change has the purpose of prioritizing supply to health care .
High demand for plastic products during the COVID-19 emergency
As plastic continues to be a matter of debate whether it is vital for protecting food from germs or is unsustainable and a carrier of bacteria, people have decided to trust the plastic packaging to protect their food, especially fruit, vegetables, meats, and bread.
According to data from IRI POS, consumers in Europe and the U.S. have increased their spending over 100% on packaged foods amid the coronavirus crisis .
It is not uncommon now to see expanded polystyrene (EPS) packaging, that in many places have been prohibited, in the rise amongst restaurants and fast food locals, because of their effective way to transport food to clients.
Another product that has increased its popularity in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic is the single-use plastic bags. The logic behind this is that they’re more reliable when it comes to germs dissemination than the cloth-made reusable bags.
Those products are visible for most of the quarantined people all over the world. But what about the frontline in this pandemic? Plastic manufacturing companies have registered high demand for medical equipment, like ventilators, respirators, and personal protective equipment (PPE), like face masks, coats, and goggles.
Healthcare systems have been battling against a large number of patients, not only affected by the SARS-Cov-2 virus, but by other sicknesses. That’s why they require to have the necessary material, such as syringes, medical tubes, and blood bags, all of them provided by plastic manufacturing companies .
Another emergent plastic product comes from some special regulations in countries like China. Companies have looked up for solutions, through plastic production design, such as plastic panels, which have been placed in cars that provide transportation services, like taxis and digital platform services.
The Chinese transportation company DiDi ordered its drivers to acquire one of these plastic panels in order to increase the safety measures, this action comes along with the mandatory use of face masks for drivers and to disinfect the car at least twice a day .
Finally, let’s remember that these are not the only products being commercialized. Plastic manufacturing companies keep on with their production, with new measurements and even with some restrictions.
Toy manufacturers know that their products are important, as a way against boredom and sadness, for the children staying at home. The entertainment at home products have also a rising demand as millions of people have been quarantined around the world, including video games and toys .
Also, being under a lockdown increases the concern about eating, cooking, preparing and conserving food and edibles in good condition. That’s how houseware, like plastic containers, cups, and mugs come in handy.
If you want to learn more about plastic containers and where to get it, we recommend you to read our text: "Plastic containers wholesale"
In Martin’s, we are aware of this situation, that’s why we keep working, under strict safety measures, to manufacture high-quality products, like houseware and toys, for our clients and distributors in order to satisfy the needs of the consumers. Are you a distributor looking for a plastic manufacturing company? Contact us and we’ll be glad to help you.
Challenges for the plastic manufacturing companies in times of COVID-19
Most of the plastic industry is still working since plastic, as we’ve seen, takes part in our daily lives and industries in many ways. Clearly, the COVID-19 crisis has raised some challenges for plastic manufacturing companies, as well as distributors and especially retailers.
Health concerns are one of the first issues dealt with. For example, a 1-meter rule within offices and factories has been implemented. People in administrative positions have been sent to work from home .
Plastic injection molding requires operators and technicians to keep working, so special measures like mandatory PPE and social distancing are the new normal for workers.
For instance, INEOS, a big chemical company that manufactures essential materials vital for life, has announced its measures to preserve the health of their employees and, at the same time, ensure its operations for the coming months .
A main issue affecting all the plastic industry has been the travel bans and commercial restrictions, especially in severely affected areas and its containment zones. For instance, Italy, one of the most severely hit European countries by this virus, has allowed trading goods across its borders to lessen the economic impact .
Another challenge, as shown by the BPF coronavirus survey, has been the capacity of plastic manufacturing companies to stock when production is the same, but distribution and sales are in decline .
It’s not different for distributors and retailers, which have been slowing down operations or stopping them in the worst of cases, they need to stock finished and semi-finished goods and, at the same time, reorganized their finances and projections.
Single-use plastic bags prohibition around the world has been another issue that the plastic industry has been handling. In the U.S., some local governments like New York and Maine have suspended the banning amid the crisis .
In Mexico, Aldimir Torres Arenas, head of the National Plastic Industries Association (Anipac, from its Spanish initials), has considered insufficient the measure announced by Mexico City’s Environment Ministry that allows single-use plastic bags only to separate waste after its recent banning, in January 2020 .
The Anipac president also stated that the Mexican plastic industry is prepared to help in the crisis, providing and ensuring plastic packaging and other products that prevent more virus spreading .
Amid the crisis, surely more businesses, including the plastic manufacturing companies, have felt the need to adopt new strategies in order to maintain some sales. Retail marketing offers a set of solutions to keep the business alive, with e-commerce, today on the rise.
Each plastic manufacturing company has taken measures, to the best of their ability, to soften the impact of this crisis. The same goes for other plastic-related ventures, for example, wholesale toys businesses need to adapt their channels of distribution and stock capacity to keep their presence in the market.
Martin’s Plastics keeps running its operations as we have the means to go on with our distribution network and manufacturing services while attending the health recommendations and safety measures. Do you have a project in mind or want something else for your business? In these challenging times, we’ll provide with assistance, give us a call or send to us a message.
What’s next after the COVID-19 pandemic for the plastic manufacturing companies?
Experts agree that once the pandemic eases, plastic manufacturing companies will have to speed up their operations to recover their full capacity. At the same time, companies must keep in mind that a pandemic doesn’t impact at the same rate in all countries.
So, even when the full staff returns to their regular positions, manufactures may encounter some trouble with overseas demand. Disrupted supply chains might lead to a price rise of finished goods .
It’s not all dark for very business, some manufacturers will enjoy some advantages, as the medical industry will maintain a sustained demand for plastic-made materials and equipment.
Economic difficulties are around the corner for every country as the COVID-19 outbreak diminishes. This doesn’t mean that all the industry won’t face the crisis with all its resources. Marketing strategies, such as promotional products, need to be put in action once the pandemic gives up.
In Martin’s, we share the concern about the future, but we look forward to dealing with your needs and projects amid or after the crisis. We are sure your business will go ahead and that we can offer great assistance. Reach out, we’ll be glad to help you in these difficult times.
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