Almost 80% of companies in the plastics industry anticipate the coronavirus affecting their turnover during the next six months, according to a report published by the British Plastic Federation (BPF), the sector’s trade body.
And, 31% of those surveyed have already seen a decrease in demand for their products or services.
BPF director general Philip Law said: “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.”
However, the report also suggested there was some cause for optimism. More than 70% of respondents said their companies could make products which could conceivably be of use to the NHS or the government.
“Our members and our industry are expecting major challenges in the weeks and months ahead”
On 20 March the government issued a call to businesses for support in the supply of ventilators and ventilator components across the UK as part of its response to the coronavirus.
The BPF report reads: “The BPF is working with the UK government to co-ordinate plastic companies who are able and willing to provide assistance, and the BPF have passed on relevant companies details direct to the government.”
Carried out between 17 and 19 March, the survey was open exclusively to members of the BPF and was completed by 127 firms. Of these, 71% were plastics reprocessors, 5% were recyclers, 12% raw materials producers and distributors, and 13% in machinery and equipment.
It is thought by the BPF that, across the entire plastics industry, 25% of the workforce could potentially work from home. Amongst plastics processors that number falls to 18%.
More than half of those who responded to the survey said the coronavirus had affected their ability to work.
Several of these companies said their staff were self-isolating, while others said their staff were working from home. Eighty-five per cent of respondents said their employees were allowed to work from home.
Last week (20 March), recycling and waste sector employees were granted ‘key worker’ status by the government, meaning they would continue to receive educational and care provision for their children during the current coronavirus crisis (see letsrecycle.com story).
Two-thirds of those surveyed said they had begun stockpiling raw materials, while nearly three-quarters said they were stockpiling finished or semi-finished goods.
Only 2% said they had no concerns about the coronavirus’s impact on business operations during the next six months.
Last week (20 March), similar fears were expressed by the glass sector (see letsrecycle.com story), with a spokesperson for British Glass, the trade association for the UK industry, telling letsrecycle.com: “With all significant sporting events already cancelled, government advising the public to avoid ‘social contact’ and therefore consigning pubs, clubs, restaurants, live music and public venues to virtual ‘lock-down’, there is inevitably going to be a significant and concerning reduction in demand.”
The British Glass spokesperson was speaking to letsrecycle.com before the enforced closure of pubs, clubs and restaurants by the government, which is sure now to have a more pronounced impact.