Covid-19 realities for the plastics industry

In the Global fight against COVID – 19, the plastic industry has played an integral, if not crucial, part of the response. Industry players have been roped in and are working hard to manufacture the tools people will need to protect and save lives.
Plastic is being used in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), ventilators, as shields to protect cashiers in the retail sector, and in many other applications in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus.
Furthermore, plastic is used in packaging for hand sanitisers, medicines, beverages, and food packaging to extend the shelf-life of products. Clariter’s chemically recycled plastic inputs are used in solvent-based cleaners that protect consumers against the virus and for good hygiene.

What’s happening in recycling?

The recycling industry has been able to minimise major shocks. Currently, there has been little movement in the sale of pellets due to certain manufacturers operating as essential services, which means that enough stock is still available.
To stop a glut in the market, producers have reduced output by either throttling back or idling in plants — a similar move to a trend set by Dow Inc. This has given manufacturers the option of ramping up plants to full manufacturing capacity as soon as demand goes back to “normal” levels.
In the aftermath of worldwide lockdowns, two factors will drive the increase in plastic manufacturing.

  1. Countries coming out of lockdown will increase manufacturing.
  2. More confirmed Covid-19 cases will mean a drive for more packaging.

Both of the above will cause a spike in plastic demand. However, this will only be temporary. We are more likely to see a flattening of the spike as regular collections resume and manufacturing kicks off.

Concerns about contamination may be high in the future, and this could affect the popularity of recycled plastics. Research shows that the COVID-19 virus appears to survive longest on plastic (polypropylene) and stainless steel. A study by the UK’s National Institute of Health suggests that in these two materials, the virus can survive for 2 to 3 days after the initial contamination. This can cause sorting facilities to shut down and therefore, even if there are recyclables available, these will not be sent to recycling plants.

Will feedstock be available during and post COVID-19 for the industry?

The short answer is YES. Those who convert virgin plastic into pellets have been able to manufacture (and they also have stock on hand).
On the other hand, the market for recyclable materials is still diverse and remains robust. This means we will see a slow ramp up as uncontaminated stock becomes available to meet growing demand in manufacturing.

Another positive is that there will be more investment in the industry as economic stimulus packages are implemented worldwide. These are also likely to lead to growth within the industry.

We believe it’s inevitable that some companies will go out of business as this is happening worldwide. However, Clariter and the companies with which we are in strategic partnerships have managed to weather the storm, and we will continue to supply industry with on-spec material.
This is an opinion article written by Clariter. Inspired by: NIH.

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