CORONAVIRUS
Plastics producers among the European companies coming to the rescue / Face protection and materials for essential workers
In the coronavirus era, protective face masks have become the new “must-haves”, and some even swear they’re worth their weight in gold. Regarded as an essential industry, the plastics sector has rallied to the cause to donate materials, spare parts or even finished products, in particular to alleviate shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks in the medical sector.

Eastman Chemical (Kingsport, Tennessee / USA; www.eastman.com), responding to PPE shortages across the US, recently launched a collaboration with compounder Rotuba (Linden, New Jersey / USA; www.rotubacompounding.com) to supply face shields to first responders, hospitals and small businesses. Rotuba’s Pen Company of America facility in Garwood, New Jersey, is using Eastman’s cellulose acetate to manufacture 75,000-100,000 of the splash guards per week.

Rotuba said it was quickly able to transition its business operations from manufacturing pens, while adapting operations has also provided important job security for its employees. The company added that the Eastman material provides the necessary optical quality, chemical resistance to hospital cleaning agents and the ability to be easily shaped for this application. Eastman has also donated material for face shield production to US lighting and rigging firm ETC (Middleton, Wisconsin / USA; www.etcconnect.com).

In Germany, Ineos Styrolution (Frankfurt / Germany; www.ineos-styrolution.com) donated 1,375 kg of ABS to the Institute of Polymer Technology at the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg to produce 100,000 pairs of protective glasses for frontline healthcare workers in local hospitals. Also in Germany, engineering plastics producer Covestro (Leverkusen / Germany; www.covestro.com) supplied the city of Dormagen with masks 3D-printed from rigid plastics. The masks, into which a filter can be inserted, can be disinfected and used multiple times.

Two UK plastics companies are on the frontlines of the countrywide effort to protect healthcare workers (see Plasteurope.com of 08.05.2020). Röchling Engineering Plastics UK (Gloucester; www.roechling-industrial.com/uk), subsidiary of the German plastics group Röchling (Mannheim; www.roechling.com), is supplying engineering grades of plastics, such as PTFE and acetal, to Britain’s NHS for use in technical and hygienic applications.

PET producer Alpek Polyester UK (APUK, Redcar; www.alpekpolyester.co.uk), which normally focuses on bottles and trays, is now supporting the supply of face shields for the NHS by donating resin for their manufacture by companies in the UK and Ireland. Face visors are normally made from polycarbonate, but the material is too heavy and – in contrast to PET – is not optimally recyclable, the company said. As well as being safe, light, transparent, durable, resistant to fogging as well as quickly and readily available, the 20 g PET visors also are said to cost less to make.

Outside the plastics sector, UK-based online marketing firm Float Digital (Falmouth; www.float-digital.com) is 3D printing protective masks made from recycled plastic water bottles to be supplied to healthcare professionals.

Meltblown pilot line at Borealis’ innovation site in Linz / Austria (Photo: Borealis)
Austria-based Borealis (Vienna; www.borealisgroup.com) has started producing meltblown fabrics for use in face masks on a repurposed line in Linz. The olefins and polyolefins giant said it was able to quickly scale up to produce rolls of fine fibre fabrics made of a new proprietary polypropylene meltblown resin. The fabric boosts filtration properties in the mask, due to its capability for finer fibres, the company explains. By exploiting a robust network of value chain partners, local and regional governmental organisations and NGOs across the country, Borealis said it is helping bolster the supply of filtration media to increase PPE for healthcare workers and others.

In Italy, RadiciGroup (Bergamo / Italy; www.radicigroup.com) and Rimplast (Bergamo; www.rimplast.it) have teamed up to supply face shields, building on a project begun by the young members of the Interact Bergamo club, who made 300 visors in collaboration with 3D digital printing lab FabLab. The two plastics industry companies are concentrating on injection moulding for the shields. After being asked by doctors using the shields to donate polyamide resin to the effort, Nicolangelo Peduto, R&D manager of RadiciGroup High Performance Polymers, said the company began collaborating with local plastics processor Rimplast, which moulded the visor frames.

The US can also boast a number of industrial companies contributing to efforts to produce face shields from plastics, but others are also getting into the game. The Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), a group used to wearing masks, is now supplying shields of another kind made from recycled plastic water bottles in partnership with Rash’R, a company that sells eco-friendly active wear. PADI says its masks are machine washable, double-layered and come in a variety of colours. Each is packaged together with five reusable carbon-activated filters designed to last eight hours each. The association calculates that, based on the number of pre-orders up to late April, making the masks may have helped about 576 kg of plastics waste to be removed from the ocean.
18.05.2020 Plasteurope.com [245121-0]
Published on 18.05.2020

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Date of print: 30.05.2020 15:49:21   (Ref: 299652478)
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