Packaging industry demands ‘essential work’ status from the UK Government

Packaging is essential and critical in these challenging times

Photo - Flexible packaging association

Amid the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak, many countries have advised people to stay home unless their work is essential. Should those in the packaging industry be classed as essential? In the UK, the government has released guidelines to only go outside for food, health reasons, and work that cannot be done from home.

Jessica Paige, packaging writer at GlobalData, says, “Many of those working in the packaging industry have been arguing for packaging-related employees also to be defined as key workers.

“Last week, the British Plastic Federation (BPF) urged the UK Government to classify plastic sector workers as essential, as the need for plastic packaging has become a matter of health and safety during this pandemic.

UK-based packaging solutions provider Parkside global sales director Paula Birch told GlobalData that packaging is essential in today’s environment and that, therefore, those working in the packaging industry are essential too.

Birch said, “Without packaging, the entire food industry will collapse. How do you supply soup or fresh bread without some sort of container? Packaging is there to protect, present, and preserve the health and safety of consumers. Without packaging, food waste, in particular, would escalate to catastrophic levels. It’s essential and critical in these challenging times.”

Paige adds, “However, last week, employees of packaging company WestRock at its East Kilbride plant told Scottish tabloid Daily Record that they are being asked to risk their lives for their work.”

According to the tabloid, an anonymous worker there said, “‘We’re scared for our health. We certainly don’t get paid to be essential workers, and all the managers are at home isolating. ‘It’s the workers that are in. We’re being asked to risk our lives for a cardboard box.”

American corrugated packaging company WestRock has not yet responded to these claims and has not posted a statement regarding the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak.

Other packaging companies like Amcor, Mondi, and UPM are continuing to operate.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

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– Naresh Khanna

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