Jim Hardisty, managing director of Goplasticpallets.com, explains why we need to stop demonising plastics but rather celebrate those who are innovating with this material, just when the UK needs it the most.
Until recently plastic packaging has been perceived almost exclusively as waste. Despite the ecological advantages of using plastic over other materials, the big plastic debate focused little on the benefits of use. Instead we were overwhelmed with stories of how single-use plastics were damaging to the environment.
Yet, as we find ourselves navigating through the coronavirus pandemic – the biggest global crisis since World War Two – this once demonised material is proving quite the saviour, particularly for those healthcare workers on the frontline, who are reliant on plastic PPE to keep them safe.
Public’s perception of plastics is changing; people are opening their eyes and seeing plastic products in a new, positive light.
It is sad to think that it has taken a global pandemic to demonstrate the vital importance of plastic products. In hospitals and other healthcare settings, the availability of single-use plastic products, in particular, can literally mean the difference between life and death. IV bags and ventilator machines both have components made from single-use plastics and our healthcare workers are dressed almost entirely in plastic from their gowns and masks to their gloves. Even the equipment they use – syringes, drips and examination tools – involve moulded or extruded plastic, and each of these products has a dramatic effect on infection control.
Outside of the healthcare setting, plastic plays a vital role in protecting our food and keeping it fresh, therefore reducing contamination and waste. We are seeing single-use plastic bags, once considered as a top plastic polluter, being used again with renewed confidence as a sanitary and convenient way to carry our groceries.
Hail the plastic maker
We have immense respect for those manufacturers that have diversified production output to meet the significant demand for ventilators and other much needed products by the NHS. Especially the F1 teams, who we had the honour to work with previously, who helped build a new breathing aid for Covid-19 patients. Several of our pharmaceutical customers too are amongst those who teamed up to rapidly develop and roll out millions of coronavirus tests as part of the government’s 5-pillar national testing strategy to identify if people have the virus.
Of course, it is not just single-use plastics that have proven vital in the fight against coronavirus. We have experienced a surge in demand from the food and pharmaceutical industries for our reusable plastic pallets and boxes since the Covid-19 outbreak.
Plastic pallets keeping up the supply
Just a couple of customers we have supported during this challenging time include a manufacturer of ventilators, who is using our GoTripBox 1208 Ultimate to ensure the timely distribution of these essential devices to hospitals throughout the UK. We have also had increased demand for various colour combinations of our Attached Lid Containers for the distribution of ‘test kits’, since these strong and durable containers are ideal for transporting products that need the added security of a fixed lid.
In turn, we have been overwhelmed by the thanks we have received from customers in the last couple of months. In a heartfelt letter, one customer, who supplies essential ingredients for medical capsules and patient recovery foods, commended our ‘courage’ and ‘hard work’ for ‘keeping up the supply’, so they can continue to produce in these trying times.
Be prepared for the Plastic Packaging Tax
Although single-use plastic products are currently basking in the limelight, once we have navigated our way through the coronavirus crisis, the tides will likely turn and once again the focus will be on limiting its use.
With this in mind, we must not forget about the new Plastic Packaging Tax due to come into effect from April 2022, which is designed to increase the use of recycled plastic in packaging by 40% – equal to carbon savings of nearly 200,000 tonnes, according to one government report. This levy means that manufacturers and importers whose products have less than 30% recyclable material will be charged £200 per tonne.
In the coming year, businesses will need to think more carefully about choosing their plastic suppliers to ensure they choose those whose products are made predominantly or exclusively from reusable plastics to avoid unnecessary charges.
In terms of our products at Goplasticpallets.com, 96% of our plastic pallets are made entirely from recycled material and at the end of their long working life, the plastic can be reground to make the next generation of new, sustainable plastic pallets. Using our plastic pallets can help companies looking to incorporate the principles of circular economy into their operations, ensuring less waste ends up in landfill. Our pioneering plastic pallet recycling scheme also means that we guarantee to help customers recycle the plastic pallets and boxes we supply when they have come to the end of their working use or are no longer needed.
As the UK is slowly emerging from lockdown, we understand that many businesses – including ourselves – are facing the challenge of adapting to a ‘new normal’. But whilst we keep moving forwards, we will keep championing plastics. It is a phenomenal material when used and disposed of responsibly!