The Covid-19 pandemic has swept across the world, disrupting lives on an unprecedented scale. At the time of this blog, there are 2.2 million cases globally. From philanthropy to production, from supply chains to waste management, cooperation has sprung everywhere, and businesses and individuals are aiding the fight in every community they serve. It is a level of cooperation that is unprecedented but needs to happen in this fight which is bigger than any of us.
Members of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste understand what this means. They are actively involved and leveraging their value chains to help everyone—health care workers, employees, customers, families, contractors—stay safe and healthy while still working to meet demand in these times. Ramping up or starting new production, donating generously, diverting resources—it’s all hands on deck to protect our communities.
Everyone is forging ahead.
Keeping essential services going
While the focus has been on the coronavirus, ensuring uninterrupted essential services remains a priority. During this period, Suez and Veolia have reaffirmed their commitments to industry partners and customers to keep critical operations in water and waste management going—water supplies will continue to flow, waste will be collected and treated, and these companies will redouble their efforts of handling increasing medical waste. Companies like TomraRecycling are pushing ahead with plant design and technology advancements to require fewer manual sorters as social distancing becomes the norm.
Then there are members who are minimising the disruption to daily lives. Energy companies like ExxonMobil and Shell have kept its offshore platforms, oil refineries and service stations running around the world. They are replenishing stocks of food and personal care items at its convenience stores. Plastic packaging firm Sealed Air and Storopack are playing vital roles of providing protective packaging for food and medical essentials to be sent to households and hospitals.
Ramping up production of critical supplies
While essential services are striving to run smoothly, supply chains in many sectors have come under tremendous strain from the challenges of lockdowns and social distancing. Despite these difficulties, many members are ensuring that production facilities step up to meet critical needs of what societies need now.
Honeywell UOP, a key producer of the N95 mask, has been accelerating its production to support health workers. The company has produced almost 20 million masks for China alone. It is also repurposing other production plants to manufacture these masks and other healthcare equipment. The same goes for P&G, Dow, BASF and Henkel which have retooled their manufacturing plants to produce protective items such as hand sanitizers and masks, products they do not traditionally manufacture. ExxonMobil is initiating multi-sector and joint development projects to expedite innovation in reusable personal protection equipment for healthcare workers and producing much-needed face shields used in hospitals and COVID-19 testing centres.
Members are playing different roles across the supply chain with some moving to maximize output in response to increased demand for materials. For example, Berry Global has ramped up its production for nonwoven fabrics—the material used to produce medical equipment such as face masks, N95 respirators, and protective apparel. Then there are the companies like Milliken, which has also scaled up to produce healthcare essentials, arming medical workers with the requisite protective garments. The company has increased the manufacturing of its anti-microbial fabric, which acts as a shield against the virus and used in the likes of scrubs, lab coats, and hospital curtains.
While efforts to accelerate production of medical equipment have doubled, we are still reading about the shortages of medical equipment everywhere. As such, apart from doubling efforts to accelerate production, members of the Alliance are also setting aside resources and sending supplies to countries in need. BASF has donated over 100 million masks and 150,000 litres of sanitizers within Germany itself, while also making similar contributions across the globe.
In the consumer sector, member companies are also delivering monetary aid and relief goods, with P&G donating millions of products from more than 30 of its brands to over 30 countries so far. Henkel’s global solidarity program includes the donation of over five million units of personal and household hygiene products. And PepsiCo is fronting a $45-million international food and relief effort across 40 countries as vital humanitarian support that extends to 50 million nutritious meals to those in need. Similarly, LyondellBasell has donated US$1.3 Million to support food banks in 17 countries and communities where the company has major operations.
Whichever way possible, companies are helping cities to stabilise in this pandemic. In France, Total has provided over $54.4 million worth of gasoline vouchers for healthcare workers. And in Asia, Sabic donated monetary aid and materials for essential medical equipment to the Hubei province in China, while SCG donated medical equipment and supplies to medical centers in Thailand.
Fighting on the frontlines and protecting people
Beyond resources and aid, members are also working with governments and medical institutions on the frontlines.
In India, Reliance Industries is supporting on multiple fronts. The company has set up a hospital dedicated to Covid-19 patients – the first of its kind in India. It is also supplying food items and producing healthcare equipment while rolling out Covid-19 test kits for their employees and is looking to expand testing to the local communities. And in a pandemic where the enemy knows no borders, Chinese company Sinopec is turning its supply base into a make-shift coronavirus hospital with 1700 beds in Kuwait.
Over in Italy, one of the hardest hit nations, ENI is standing with its home country by setting up multiple medical facilities, most notably a 130-bed coronavirus hospital in Rome, an emergency department in Milan, and an isolation unit in Pavia. It has also acquired medical equipment and protective gear through special airlifts from China which have brought 600 ventilators, 55 portable oximeters, and 40 intensive care beds, among other supplies, all of which have been distributed to various parts of the country.
Members like Shell are on the frontline with more than 15,000 participating retail sites across more than 30 countries providing free food to healthcare professionals, as well as truck drivers and delivery people who are vital to maintaining supplies. The Gemini Corporation is putting a system in place to help educate and protect those most vulnerable by teaching them about sanitisation.
Forging ahead together
Today, we are tackling Covid-19 in a pandemic situation and the services and products provided by the Alliance member companies are a critical resource, especially in the production of healthcare supplies such as masks and personal protective equipment.
More than ever before, our members continue to be committed to their sustainable development commitments; and to the Alliance’s mission of ending plastic waste in the environment. The latter is a serious and complex issue and if there is anything that Covid-19 has taught the world, it is that complex issues require every person, every organisation and every institution to stand united to effect change.