PrintAction

News Coating COVID-19
Raw material shortages could impact availability of food packaging, British Coatings Federation says


March 31, 2020
By PrintAction Staff

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Printing ink manufacturers across Europe are reporting reduced availability of ethanol and n- propanol, the British Coatings Federation (BCF) reported.

“These are key inputs into the production of printed packaging inks and other materials, like varnishes, which, in turn, are vital in the production of consumer product packaging,” BCF said in a March 30 statement. “The use of these inks and packaging materials helps ensure food and pharmaceutical products, among others, reach the consumer in the best and most useable condition: they allow the packaging to inform consumers about a product’s contents, how they should be used and, critically, maximize product condition and shelf life.”

The UK printing industry supply chain is calling upon the UK Government to ensure the necessary supplies of ethanol, n-propanol and other relevant raw materials are maintained for the ink and printing industries so they can fulfill their role in producing food and other essential packaging throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, BCF said.

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“As things stand, members are reporting that things will come to a head within a matter of weeks, not least because of increased demand for food and other products, and hence increased packaging demand,” the organization said.

Availability issues are arising because ethanol, along with other industrial alcohol solvents like n- propanol, is also used in the production of disinfectants and sanitary products such as hand gels.

“With the increased demands for sanitary, medical, and pharmaceutical products as a response to COVID-19, resources are increasingly being diverted into this area, at the expense of other sectors and products,” BCF said. “There are even concerns some countries are considering introducing a restriction of ethanol, limiting supplies exclusively for health/pharmaceutical purposes. A robust response to COVID-19 is understandable but if the allocation of resources is diverted entirely in the health/sanitary product direction, there will inevitably be knock-on effects elsewhere, including on vital printed packaging for food and pharmaceutical products.”

“In the past few days, BCF members have reported that prices for ethanol and n-propanol have risen by up to 350% since last week, adding thousands of pounds a week in additional material costs. There are greater concerns that supplies will dry up completely in the future,” BCF CEO Tom Bowtell said. “BCF has already been in touch with officials at BEIS to make them aware of members’ concerns and how these shortages of supply may affect the availability of food packaging and packaging in other critical areas, like pharmaceutical products.”

“While it is understandable measures are being taken to ensure a robust response to the COVID-19 outbreak, we also need to make sure that the baby is not thrown out with the bathwater,” said Debbie Waldron-Hoines of European Flexographic Industry Association. “Ethanol is a vital raw material for printing inks used for Flexible Food Packaging, a vital part of the food supply chain. We urge the UK Government, and governments across Europe, to take action to ensure supplies of essential raw materials continue to be made available for the purposes of essential packaging manufacturing.”