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FI Insights

7 Ways the Pulp & Paper Industry Has Helped Fight COVID-19

May 19, 2020
Author: Travis Durkee

Despite the hardships and sadness caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, a sense of community, compassion and empathy has shone through around the world.

Individuals and corporations have banded together to help frontline workers and those impacted the most by the novel coronavirus – and the global pulp & paper industry certainly has played a role in fighting the disease. Mill employees have navigated social distancing measure in the workplace to create essential, sought after products, while executives have given millions of dollars and products to hospitals, schools, and relief causes.

Below we’ve highlighted a handful of measure taken by the pulp & paper industry, both monetary and through production, meant to help the world through COVID-19:

Mondi (Germany) to Produce and Donate 10,000 Protective Gowns to Nursing Homes, Retirement Facilities

Mondi announced it will produce 10,000 protective gowns at its three German plants located in Halle, Steinfeld and Gronau, to be donated to workers in nursing homes and retirement facilities in the coming months. As of May 15, the first 500 of the disposable, single-use garments have been delivered.

“We’re very pleased that Mondi could respond to this request and quickly devise a solution to help protect front-line staff and health care workers in the region,” Alfons Kruse, Mondi’s plant manager in Steinfeld, said in a release. “As a packaging producer, it involved creatively rethinking materials and production processes in order to make protective garments. Mondi's employees rose to this challenge to support our local communities and we are proud of their work.”

To produce the gowns, Mondi Halle extrudes a 750 mm-diameter polyethylene film tube that forms the body of the slip-over gown. Mondi Gronau uses its R&D Centre to extrude smaller, 250 mm-diameter PE tubes that form the sleeves on the gown, while Mondi Steinfeld converts the bodies and the sleeves.

Suzano (Brazil) Donates Toilet Paper, Respirators & More to COVID-19 Relief Efforts

In its Q1 report, Brazilian company Suzano outlined its impressive efforts to combat the effects of COVID-19 both inside its plants and in the larger community.

Suzano donated toilet paper, diapers, hospital masks, and structural improvements in hospitals. It also gave 159 respirators to municipal and state governments. The company estimates its donations to total more than BRL 50 million (8.67 million USD).

As for its employees, Suzano “adopted a series of measures and procedures to minimize their exposure to the new coronavirus,” maintained all direct jobs, and advanced 50 percent of annual bonus pay for all employees.

Smurfit Kappa (UK) Launches 'Safe Portfolio' of Products to Meet Back-to-Work & Study Needs

Smurfit Kappa has launched a “Safe Portfolio” of products aimed at helping businesses, schools, and offices resume operations in accordance with safety guidelines as COVID-19 lockdown restrictions are lifted.

The products include wall dividers, desk and work station separators, hygiene stations, point-of-sale screens, and safety signage made from corrugated board.

This is just the latest by Smurfit Kappa in a series of moves meant to combat COVID-19 that included donations of hundreds of thousands of masks to hospitals, boxes to the Red Cross used to deliver goods, and providing all employees (roughly 3,000) with COVID-19 essential kits filled with gloves, soap, and masks.

DS Smith, AJM Packaging (US) Add Shifts, Employees to Meet Demand of Essentials

DS Smith has added a second shift of workers at its Lebanon, Indiana plant to keep up with demand fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic. The box plant, which opened in January 2020, is witnessing surging demand from e-commerce. As a result, the design team at the plant has fast-tracked design work on new packaging to handle changing product lines for clients.

DS Smith plans to add 70-80 employees to its regular workforce of 100 in order to meet demand.

“We found even the mix of business we currently serve has changed substantially. Some of our customers have adjusted their production. Instead of producing normal products, they’re making hand sanitizer and products to fight COVID,” David McCracken, regional general manager for DS Smith, told Inside Indiana Business. “And, we’re manufacturing boxes quickly to be able to supply the product for those new products”

Additionally, DS Smith (which is based in the United Kingdom) has donated packaging, volunteers and financial support to people and organizations throughout the world during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, AJM Packaging announced its intentions to provide bonuses of up to $1,000 to all eligible Detroit area manufacturing employees in addition to hiring more than 250 new employees to meet crucial needs being driven by the ongoing pandemic. 

"In spite of the challenges we're facing together right now, we continue to be inspired and motivated by the resilience of our employees," Robert A. Epstein, president of AJM Packaging, said in a release. "We're very proud to have been designated a 'Critical Infrastructure' company and we are just as proud of our 'critical employees' and the courage and commitment they have demonstrated."

According to AJM -- which produces high-quality paper products, including paper plates, cups, bowls and bags -- the 250-plus new full-time hires at AJM locations in metro Detroit will be permanent positions.

International Paper Donates Millions of Boxes to Food Banks

International Paper (IP) has stepped up in a big way in recent weeks donating millions of corrugated boxes to food banks throughout the United States.

IP announced this week it had donated 2 million corrugated boxes to the Mid-South food bank in Memphis, Tennessee, and to national and global organizations such as Feeding America and the Global Food Banking Network. Company officials are asking the public to help fill the boxes.

"Many food banks have had to shift their model from serving daily hot meals to distributing food rations in boxes. International Paper's gift of two million boxes is extraordinary and desperately needed. Without boxes, we simply cannot get food to people," Lisa Moon, president and CEO of The Global FoodBanking Network said in a release.

IP’s announcement is the latest in a string of generous moves meant to fight the effects of COVID-19, including the following donations:

Dr. Alissa Campbell Shaw, senior manager Community Engagement for International Paper and executive director of the IP Foundation, summarized IP’s efforts: “International Paper is committed to addressing critical needs in the communities where our employees live and work.”

Klabin (Brazil) Joins Efforts to Produce Gel Alcohol Using Cellulose

Klabin, in partnership with the Senai Institute for Innovation in Biosynthetics and Fibers, and the cosmetics company Apoteka, has completed tests for production of gel alcohol from micro-fibrillated cellulose (MFC). The product is extracted from wood and replaces carbopol, an important component used in the manufacture of gel alcohol, which has risen in price due to the strong demand driven by the COVID -19 pandemic.

The product is in the process of validation and technical reports are said to guarantee its antibacterial action, which is important in combating coronavirus. The gel alcohol is produced at Klabin's recently opened pilot plant in Telêmaco Borba.

“One of the research routes of the Technology Center is directed to the different uses of wood. We have a huge potential for extracting new products from our main raw material, trees from planted forests,” said Francisco Razzolini, director of Industrial Technology, Innovation, Sustainability, Projects and Pulp Business at Klabin. “We are very satisfied with the result of this project and, as we believe that each attitude counts, we hope that this will be another action by Klabin to help fight the coronavirus.”

Klabin is the largest producer and exporter of packaging paper in Brazil.

RYAM, WestRock Mills in Florida Donate to Local Causes

RYAM (Rayonier Advanced Materials) and WestRock mills in Fernandina Beach, Florida have contributed a total of $45,000 to five local nonprofit organizations addressing community needs for COVID-19 in Florida.

WestRock also donated 7,000 boxes to the Journey Church Food Bank to help distribute needed food and supplies, which is only a fraction of WestRock's efforts.

In another release, RYAM said it has contributed over $160,000 to 23 local nonprofits that are addressing community needs in rural Florida, Georgia, Ontario and Quebec.

“We know these gifts will make a difference,” said Jay Posze, President of the RYAM foundations, “not only by providing these deserving nonprofits with some much-needed assistance, but also by spotlighting the truly indispensable work they do. We hope others are encouraged to give as well.”

BONUS: Kimberly-Clark Increases Toilet Paper Production, Donates to Relief Efforts

Kimberly-Clark, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of tissue products, is fighting COVID-19 impacts on multiple fronts.

In addition to increasing production of toilet paper at mills in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Australia, Kimberly-Clark announced in April a series of cash and product donations totaling more than $8 million through the Kimberly-Clark Foundation to help support COVID-19 relief efforts around the world.

To help those most threatened by the virus, the foundation has donated $2.5 million to UNICEF and its programs focused on preventing the spread of the virus. In addition, it will donate $2.5 million to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the American Red Cross, said Mike Hsu, chairman and CEO of Kimberly-Clark in a statement.

In March, Kimberly-Clark announced it would donate $1 million in aid and 1 million rolls of Cottonelle to the United Way Worldwide COVID-19 community response and recovery fund.

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