Plastics manufacturers transforms muffin containers into PPE

30 Apr 2020

In response to the ongoing shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the United States, FMCG plastic packaging manufacturer Novolex has retrofitted its production lines at four North American facilities to produce isolation gowns and face shields rather than food bags and muffin trays.

With the conversion of its machines to PPE producing equipment, Novolex is churning out 25,000 face shields and 100,000 hospital gowns weekly with plans to double its production in the coming weeks. This large quantity of PPE is produced in four facilities in Brampton, Ontario; Lancaster, Texas; Chelmsford, Massachusetts; and Yakima, Washington.

Plastics manufacturers transforms muffin containers into PPE
Image via Alex Buchan on Unsplash

Although a retrofitting on this scale typically requires six to eight months to engineer, Novolex said that it was able to complete this conversion in less than three weeks and is now able to ship PPE to COVID-19 epicenters in New Hampshire, California, New York, Texas and Georgia.

Visors for face shields are made from the same PET plastic sheets used to make cake containers, while the headgear is crafted from machines producing plastic plates and cutlery. Isolation gowns are only manufactured at the company’s Washington facility and are pieced together using products from three different machines.

While PET plastic products are widely available across North America, Novolex works with materials that require food-grade certifications, making them easily adaptable into medical PPE that requires similar stringent regulations outlined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

While PPE is important for medical professionals during this pandemic outbreak, these materials are likewise important to the essential workers in the food and beverage manufacturing. The standard use of PPE in this industry is required to minimize employee exposure to bacteria as well as maintain a clean and safe working environment. However, there is currently a shortage of PPE for these workers. The lack of adequate PPE in food and beverage manufacturing is, in part, due to reports of the Federal Emergency Management Agency confiscating PPE and rerouting it to health care workers, according to Business Insider.

The need for access to PPE is even greater today than it is under normal circumstances – for both food and beverage workers and medical professionals. If manufacturing facilities are short on PPE there is a risk that COVID-19 infections will rise which will further disrupt the supply chain and leave customers with restricted access to a variety of products.

Production from Novolex could be a boon to both industries by alleviating some of the pressure that is currently on the U.S. government as it scrambles to secure PPE for medical professionals. With more sources of PPE, Novelex is working to also free up food and beverage manufacturing companies' access to protective equipment to allow production to continue unfettered.

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