Other Packaging News
Check out our packaging articles for a more in-depth look at the news from each packaging manufacturing sector.
Packaging crisis continues as price of polymer hits record high
Pressure on the UK's packaging industry shows no sign of abating as polymer prices continue to hit record highs.
The price of polymer resins - the material used to make plastic - has risen sharply for six consecutive months, from an average price of around £800 per tonne in November to £1,850 per tonne in May - a 127% increase.
Despite industry efforts to prevent costs being passed on to customers, the sustained hike in raw polymer prices - driven by a shortage of polymer supply - is likely to lead to an increase in packaging prices for a range of household items.
As the intensifying crisis ramps up pressure on manufacturers across the continent, a leading industry body has warned that the economic survival of numerous small and medium enterprises (SMEs) is under threat, along with the production of a variety of products, including essential goods for packaging supply chains.
According to European Plastics Convertors (EuPC), there are more than 50,000 SMEs across the industry in Europe, 90% of whom have been affected by the supply crisis.
The body reports that many companies have been forced to reduce production and accept fewer or no new customers in order to honour existing agreements, with the supply of essential goods for the food and pharmaceutical industries threatened if the crisis continues.
"Manufacturers of plastic products all over Europe are experiencing serious bottlenecks in the supply of raw materials since the beginning of this year," said EuPC managing director Alexandre Dangis.
"Delivery problems have become increasingly widespread, affecting raw materials... as well as special additives that are crucial for the manufacture of compounds and plastic products.
"The serious market disruptions currently taking place all over Europe are a symptom of the structural imbalance in Europe between the local production of and demand for raw materials and additives. Without restoration of that balance, periodic recurrence of gross disruption of the production chain is highly likely. Ultimately, end customers will also suffer damage due to disruptions in the delivery of (semi-)finished products."
The polymer crisis has been driven by an increase in demand for raw materials since covid-19 restrictions were first eased in the second half of 2020, combined with a slump in supplies, notably from the United States, from where Europe gets most of its supply.
US production and exports to Europe were hit by a damaging hurricane season last autumn, whilst a lack of shipping containers and an increase in the price of crude oil - from which polymer resins are derived - has exacerbated the problem.
Co-op bans 'bags for life' - the 'new single-use carrier'
The Co-op has become the latest UK supermarket to halt the sale of 'bags for life' from its stores, warning that the reusable plastic bag has become the 'new single-use carrier'.
The bags will be phased out immediately from all 2,600 Co-op stores, so that once stocks are gone, they will not be replaced and sales will cease.
Customers still wishing to purchase a bag will be able to buy a compostable carrier bag for 10p that offers a sustainable second use as a kitchen caddy bin liner.
In 2019, Greenpeace reported an increase in the amount of plastic produced by UK supermarkets - to 900,000 tonnes per year - driven largely by sales of more than 1.5 billion bags for life.
Bags for life use more plastic in their production than traditional 'single-use' carrier bags, thus increasing the amount of plastic in circulation.
The Co-op’s new initiative will remove 29.5 million bags for life, weighing around 870 tonnes of plastic, from sale each year.
The UK's sixth biggest supermarket has welcomed the increase in the carrier bag levy to 10p in April, but has called on the government to go further still.
Its new 'Bag to Rights' report, launched today to accompany the announcement on the bags-for-life ban, sets out policy recommendations for government, which include:
- Requiring major retailers to report sales of all reusable bags, as well as single-use bags, to increase transparency and assess the true impact of the carrier bag levy
- Requiring all 'single-use' carrier bags to be certified compostable
- The introduction of a minimum 50p price for reusable bags, to create a greater perceived value and encourage customer reuse, instead of treating them as single-use bags
Co-op Food chief executive Jo Whitfield said: "Many shoppers are regularly buying so called 'bags for life' to use just once and it's leading to a major hike in the amount of plastic being produced.
"To help tackle plastic pollution and the use of unnecessary plastic, we will be ceasing the sale of bags for life when current stocks are exhausted.
"We're also ensuring all of our members and customers have access to a low price point option that's more environmentally friendly, alongside more durable bags at a higher price point."
Helen Bird, strategic engagement manager at the Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP), said: "All bags, regardless of the material they are made from, impact on the environment. The most important thing to reduce this impact is reuse. Just as we all now carry a mask about ourselves, we should be doing the same with shopping bags.
"Supermarkets have a responsibility to incentivise this and we would like to see transparent reporting on all types of shopping bags – whether they are made of traditional plastic, compostable plastic or paper.
"There will be times when we forget to bring a bag and in these instances we can still reuse those bags, and at the end of their life we recycle them at supermarket collection points. For Co-op's shoppers this means that they are able to reuse carrier bags and if they have a food waste collection then they can use it as a caddy liner."
Image courtesy of Co-operative Group Limited.
Hellmann's make switch to 100% recycled plastic bottles
Hellmann's, one of the UK's most popular condiment brands, is switching its 'squeezy' range to bottles made from 100% recycled plastic.
The Unilever brand has already switched 40% of the range - including its Light, Lighter than Light, Vegan and flavoured mayonnaise bottles - to post-consumer recycled PET (rPET), with plans for the full Hellmann's range to follow by the end of 2022.
Unilever said the move will save approximately 14 million virgin plastic bottles - around 1,480 tonnes of virgin plastic - from being used every year, once the full range is moved.
The switch is part of the company's commitment to halve the amount of virgin plastic it uses and make all of its packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.
The new bottles have been made using food-grade standard recycled plastic - which has a slightly darker tint than virgin plastic - and they feature a 'New 100% Recycled Bottle' logo on the front.
"At Hellmann’s we believe food is too good to be wasted, and now we’re helping to reduce plastic waste too," said Andre Burger, vice president of foods and refreshment at Unilever UK & Ireland.
"With our new 100% recycled plastic bottles, which are also fully recyclable, we’re providing shoppers with an accessible and simple way to help make their households and mealtimes more sustainable – whilst continuing to enjoy the products they love.
"Our Hellmann’s bottles are our first food brand in the UK to use 100% post-consumer recycled plastic, and whilst making the switch has not been without its challenges, these learnings will enable us to accelerate the move of other Unilever food brands to using more recycled plastic too."
By 2025, Unilever pledges to:
- Halve the amount of virgin plastic used in their packaging and achieve an absolute reduction of more than 100,000 tonnes in plastic use
- Help collect and process more plastic packaging than they sell
- Ensure that 100% of their plastic packaging is designed to be fully reusable, recyclable or compostable
- Increase the use of post-consumer recycled plastic material in their packaging to at least 25%
Image courtesy of Hellmann's / Unilever.
Scientists develop compostable plastic that breaks down with just heat and water
US scientists have developed a biodegradable plastic that breaks down in just a few weeks when exposed to heat and water.
The breakthrough, made by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, has the potential to transform the plastics industry if it can be applied at scale.
Biodegradable plastics have been championed as one possible solution to the problem of plastic pollution, but some products labelled 'biodegradable' or 'compostable' do not actually break down in typical composting conditions, and can create problems if sent for recycling.
"People are now prepared to move into biodegradable polymers for single-use plastics, but if it turns out that it creates more problems than it’s worth, then the policy might revert back," said Ting Xu, a UC Berkeley professor and author of the research paper, published in the journal Nature.
"We are basically saying that we are on the right track. We can solve this continuing problem of single-use plastics not being biodegradable."
One of the most commonly-used compostable plastics is polylactic acid (PLA) - a synthetic polymer derived from plant-based materials, which is designed to biodegrade in industrial compost but can last as long as regular plastics if it ends up in landfill.
Now Professor Xu and her team have invented a way to make these compostable plastics break down within just a few weeks using heat and water.
The molecular structure of the most durable plastics is almost crystal-like and so strong that the polymer fibres are impenetrable to water, or indeed the microbes that might break them down.
But the UC Berkeley team's breakthrough came when they embedded polyester-eating enzymes into polyester as the material is made.
Billions of these nanoscale particles were embedded in the resin beads that are the starting point for plastic manufacturing. Xu compares this process to embedding pigments in plastic to color them.
The enzymes were protected by a simple polymer wrapping, which is released and degrades on exposure to heat and water, allowing the enzymes to break down the plastic into its original building blocks. In the case of PLA, this reduces it to lactic acid, which feeds the soil microbes in compost.
"If you have the enzyme only on the surface of the plastic, it would just etch down very slowly," Xu said. "You want it distributed nanoscopically everywhere so that, essentially, each of them just needs to eat away their polymer neighbours, and then the whole material disintegrates."
Triggered by water and a little heat, 80 percent of the modified PLA fibres degraded entirely within about one week, whilst the process was even faster at higher temperatures, such as those employed in industrial composting.
The majority of compostable packaging products on the market today - such as this range of compostable carrier bags from leading UK manufacturer Polybags - are designed to disintegrate within a matter of weeks and fully biodegrade within a few months in industrial composting conditions.
Whilst these products offer a handy waste management solution to those with a food waste collection service at their disposal - which ends up in industrial composting - Xu's discovery has the potential to go one giant step further, with products that degrade in just warm water.
"It turns out that composting is not enough - people want to compost in their home without getting their hands dirty, they want to compost in water," said Xu.
"So, that is what we tried to see. We used warm tap water. Just warm it up to the right temperature, then put it in, and we see in a few days it disappears."
The full research paper is available to read at Nature.com.
Images courtesy of UC Berkeley.
Packaging prices set to rise as polymer prices rocket
Packaging manufacturers have warned of a possible increase in the price of packaging, following a recent surge in the cost of polymer resins used to make plastic.
Polymer prices have more than doubled since November, rocketing from an average price of approximately £800 per tonne to over £1,600 per tonne in April.
Polyethylene and polypropylene resins are used to make a range of packaging products, including plastic bottles, bags and film, as well as a variety of food packaging and containers.
Whilst some packaging manufacturers have been doing their best to keep prices low - helped to date by long-term supply contracts - the sustained hike in prices has increased pressure throughout the supply chain.
If raw material prices remain high, packaging manufacturers across Europe will inevitably be forced to increase prices, thereby squeezing profit margins for supermarkets and smaller retailers, which will eventually lead to increased costs for consumers.
Renato Zelcher, chief executive at Crocco - an Italian polyethylene manufacturer - told the Financial Times that the crisis spelled "disaster" for his company's results, and warned that costs will inevitably be passed on to the consumer.
"Eventually our customers will notice higher prices. If we don’t do that, we will go bankrupt," he said.
Polymer prices have risen to a six-year high this spring, due to an increase in demand and a slump in supplies, driven by a combination of factors.
US polyethylene production and exports to Europe were hit last autumn following a damaging hurricane season. Imports into Europe have been hit further by a lack of shipping containers, whilst an increase in the price of crude oil - from which polymer resins are derived - has squeezed costs further still.
Polybags publish packaging guide to beat Covid lockdown
Has your business been affected by Covid-19? The answer to that question is almost certainly 'yes', as the impact of the pandemic has been so widespread and far-reaching.
Businesses in every sector across the UK have been forced to adapt to new ways of working, with offices, shops, pubs and restaurants forced to close, employees working from home and customers making the move online like never before.
To help businesses adapt to this brave new world, leading UK manufacturer Polybags has published the Packaging Survival Guide to Covid-19 Lockdown, to help businesses find the packaging they need to survive and thrive during these uncertain times.
The handy guide covers a range of situations that businesses might find themselves in during lockdown, offering solutions for packaging that they may require as they make necessary changes to their business.
The Greenford company, which turns 60 this year, says the guide aims "to help businesses of all shapes and sizes get the most from their packaging during lockdown and emerge on the other side in a better place."
So whether you are a retailer in need of mailing bags for deliveries, a business in need of packing bags to protect furniture in lockdown storage, or a cafe looking for vacuum bags to save a load of perishable food during lockdown, this guide has got you covered.
Polybags have broken down the guide into helpful sections to answer commonly-asked lockdown packaging questions, from ways to get deliveries to stand out from the crowd, to helping businesses using lockdown to spruce up their premises.
For companies using the extra time afforded by lockdown to rethink their business strategy, Polybags' guide offers some handy and affordable printed packaging solutions to help advertise your business and boost your brand.
There is also a helpful section on eco-packaging for the many companies using lockdown as an opportunity to make their business more eco-friendly.
For all this and more, check out Polybags' packaging survival guide today and see how they can help your business during lockdown.
Image courtesy of Polybags.
Heinz cans plastic wrapping
Multipack wrappers to be replaced by recyclable cardboard sleeves
"Wave goodbye to multipack plastic, say hello to recyclable cardboard packaging."
That's the message from food giant Heinz as they unveil a new, eco-friendly cardboard sleeve set to replace plastic wrapping on all of their multipack products.
The Heinz Eco-Friendly Sleeve Multipack is available now on Heinz soups as part of the 'winter bundle' on the company's home delivery service, Heinz to Home, and is set to launch across all Heinz canned products at major UK retailers from autumn 2021.
Produced from renewable and sustainably managed forests, the fully-recyclable sleeve has been certified by the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).
It uses 10 percent less material than a traditional paperboard sleeve design and 50 percent less than a fully enclosed wraparound box - an optimised design employed by Heinz to help minimise the product's carbon footprint.
Perhaps conscious of paper's unfavourable carbon footprint when compared to equivalent plastic products, Heinz have pointed out that the manufacturing and transport of this new innovative sleeve is carbon neutral. The company says they are also advancing efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Kraft Heinz’s Northern Europe President Jojo de Noronha is hopeful that the new sleeve's convenience and sustainability will prove a hit with customers.
"It is clear that convenience is important to shoppers – research has found that 59% of UK shoppers say that if a package is easy to carry or transport, it is impactful to their overall satisfaction with the product," said de Noronha.
"Sustainable packaging has a significant impact, too, with 71% of UK shoppers agreeing that they are more satisfied with a product if it is easily recycled or composted.
"Grounded in shopper insight, we feel this new recyclable and easy-to-carry paperboard sleeve ticks both of those boxes and is the perfect eco-friendly solution for our multipacks.
"Our packaging innovation team continues to work hard to develop further sustainable solutions across our business as we make a £25m investment over three years to implement the infrastructure needed to ensure this roll-out is a success, which will be a win for the environment as well as shoppers across the UK."
The Kraft Heinz Company is the fifth-largest food and beverage company in the world, with eight different (US) billion-dollar brands in its portfolio.
Image courtesy of Heinz UK.
UK's biggest businesses cut plastic packaging by 40%
The UK's biggest businesses have cut their use of unnecessary plastic packaging by 40 percent in the last year, a new report has revealed.
Signatories to The UK Plastics Pact - which include Unilever, Nestle and PepsiCo - between them produced 40% fewer non-recyclable and unnecessary pieces of plastic packaging in 2019, compared to 2018.
The figures were revealed by the Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP) in The UK Plastic Pact's second annual report, which demonstrated good progress by its members against targets and good progress in plastic recycling at home.
Whilst the figures show much-needed progress is being made, the charity’s chief executive, Marcus Gover, warns that significant challenges lie ahead which require urgent attention to keep the UK on track.
"It’s great to see UK Plastics Pact members cutting unnecessary plastic packaging by 40% and increasing recycling to 50% in just one year," said Grover.
"This was exactly why we set up the Pact - to tackle problematic plastic, increase reuse and recycling, and stop plastic polluting the environment. I am delighted with the progress and very pleased to see leading businesses trialling refill and reuse alternatives."
Data from the report showed the following progress by Pact members in 2019:
- Target 1: A 40% reduction in plastic items classed as problematic or unnecessary sold (400 million) compared to 2018
- Target 2: 64% of plastic packaging sold by Pact members continues to be recyclable
- Target 3: UK plastic packaging recycling levels increased to 50% (from 44% in 2018)
- Target 4: Average recycled content increased to 13% (from 9% in 2018)
The UK Plastics Pact brings together UK businesses, governments and NGOs to tackle plastic waste. It is the first such initiative in the world working to create a circular economy for plastics.
Their 2019-20 UK annual report, which includes further details on the Pact's targets, progress and timelines, can be found at wrap.org.uk.
Aldi launches first 100%-recylable freezer bag
Aldi has become the first UK supermarket to launch a 100% recyclable own-brand freezer bag.
The eco-friendly bags, which retail at 99p, are first being sold in 230 stores across parts of England, with plans to roll them out across Aldi's 900 UK stores if the trial is successful.
Made from 95% recyclable polyethylene and 5% seafood waste - also known as 'shell waste' - the new bags are also treated with an antimicrobial agent that has been proven to inhibit the growth of bacteria and mould.
"It’s more important than ever to strike a balance between reducing single-use plastic and maintaining food hygiene," said Chris McKenry, Aldi UK's plastics and packaging director.
"Thanks to its antimicrobial qualities, this recyclable freezer bag enables us to continue on our mission to eradicate unnecessary non-recyclable materials while also offering customers a more hygienic way of storing and transporting food.
"Our promise to always offer quality at unbeatable prices goes beyond just great food – it’s about catering to the needs of our customers in every way we can, and a rapidly-growing number of those who shop with us want to do so sustainably without breaking the bank."
Aldi is the UK's fifth-largest supermarket, but is currently the only one to offer a 100% recyclable own-brand freezer bag.
The trial, which runs in the East Midlands, Yorkshire, the north west, north east and south east of England, is the latest initiative made by Aldi in its bid to become a more sustainable retailer.
In October, the German-owned retailer announced plans to scrap single-use bags for loose fruit and vegetables from all of its stores by the end of the year - part of a drive to make 100% of its own-label packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2022, with the same target for branded goods by 2025.
Image courtesy of Aldi UK.
Get your parcels on Santa's sleigh - last posting dates for Christmas 2020
"Christmas is coming,
The goose is overweight.
Remember these last posting dates,
So your presents aren't all late!"
It's that time of year when people post Christmas presents to loved ones in the UK and all over the world.
Getting cards and gifts in the post nice and early is always important if you want them to arrive in time for the big day - but never has that been more true than in 2020.
With postal systems already creaking under the weight of the coronavirus and a further surge expected in the weeks leading up to Christmas, it's never been more important to take heed of the all-important cut-off dates for getting your present or card in the post.
Here are Royal Mail's last posting dates for Christmas 2020:
- Fri 18 December: 2nd Class and 2nd Class Signed For
- Mon 21 December: 1st Class and 1st Class Signed For and Royal Mail Tracked 48*
- Tue 22 December: Royal Mail Tracked 24*
- Wed 23 December: Special Delivery Guaranteed
* Tracked 24/48 services not available to purchase at Post Office branches.
- Fri 4 December: Australia, New Zealand
- Wed 9 December: Africa, Asia, Caribbean, South & Central America, Middle East
- Thu 10 December: Canada, Cyprus, Malta
- Fri 11 December: Greece, Turkey, Eastern Europe (except Czech Republic, Poland & Slovakia)
- Sat 12 December: Czech Republic, Finland, Italy, Poland, Sweden, USA
- Wed 16 December: Austria, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland
- Fri 18 December: Belgium, France, Ireland, Luxembourg
Alongside their recommended posting dates, Royal Mail also issued the following warning to its customers:
"Due to the global Coronavirus pandemic affecting mail services in most countries, we strongly advise posting all international mail as early as possible to ensure your letters and parcels arrive in time for Christmas.
Royal Mail will employ an extra 13,000 temporary staff to cope with the expected frenzy of online shopping this Christmas, as Covid-19 lockdown restrictions force more people away from the high street.
A busy few weeks lie in store for businesses and shoppers alike, with packaging manufacturers braced for the festive rush.
Online retailers in need of a last-minute Christmas packaging top-up will be pleased to find a huge range of mailing bags on sale at the UK's number one manufacturer, Polybags, whose market-leading eco-packaging range includes a wide variety of eco-friendly postage solutions made from compostable, biodegradable and 100%-recycled material.
For the rest of us, the key is to get your shopping done and your cards written early and then don't miss the boat - or is that sleigh? - when it comes to last posting dates.
For full details of recommended last posting dates, visit royalmail.com/greetings. You can also keep up-to-date with the very latest service updates from across the country.
Coco-Cola launches paper bottle prototype
Coca-Cola has announced plans to develop a 100% paper bottle.
The soft drink giant is partnering with Danish startup Paboco - short for the Paper Bottle Company - to develop the innovative design.
The first-generation prototype consists of a paper shell with a 100% recycled plastic closure and liner inside, with efforts now geared towards creating a paper bottle without the plastic liner.
Stijn Franssen, R&D packaging innovation manager at Coca-Cola EMEA, believes the innovation could signal the start of an exciting new chapter in packaging.
"Our vision is to create a paper bottle that can be recycled like any other type of paper, and this prototype is the first step on the way to achieving this," said Franssen.
"A paper bottle opens up a whole new world of packaging possibilities, and we are convinced that paper packaging has a role to play in the future."
Franssen’s team is conducting extensive lab testing at The Coca-Cola Company’s research and development centre in Brussels, where it will assess how the paper bottle performs and protects its contents in various scenarios, including refrigeration.
Whilst the project is still in its early stages of development, Paboco's business development manager Michael Michelsen believes it has the potential to be a breakthrough for the packaging industry.
"We’re focused on several different development areas, which all tie back to our vision of creating a 100% recyclable and bio-based bottle," said Michelsen.
"This has potential to be a real breakthrough in circularity for the industry, unearthing huge potential in how packaging is designed, produced and used by consumers.
"Changing an industry requires progress in increments and a push for sustainable change. The paper bottle concept remains a work in progress, and being able to truly evolve and scale to meet producer and consumer demand is one of the critical challenges to overcome."
Image courtesy of Coca-Cola EMEA.
Is your business ready for Christmas? Don't miss these last minute packaging offers!
- United Kingdom - Festive special offers plus a great deal on promotional mailing bags & carrier bags from Polybags
- North America - Fantastic Christmas packaging offers from Box and Wrap (US) and Canadian Tire
- Australia - PaperPak have a fabulous selection of Christmas gift bags
Check out these Christmas packaging offers from around the world
2020 has been a tough year for the retail sector but, with Christmas approaching, the next few weeks still promise to be the busiest and most important of the year.
After a year hit by covid-19, retailers all over the world will be hoping for a Christmas boost as shoppers get ready to part with their cash and pick up some festive bargains.
The Christmas countdown clock is ticking and, with quality seasonal packaging more important than ever, now is the time for retailers to stock up on bags, boxes and wrapping that will bring festive cheer to their customers, whilst getting the job done.
Many retailers will have sorted printed festive packaging well in advance but, with well-stocked packaging supplies more crucial than at any other time of year, the good news is there are still plenty of bargains to be had, wherever you are in the world.
In the United States, wholesale packaging specialists Box and Wrap have a huge selection of Christmas gift bags, wrapping and packaging available, with free shipping on all orders over $300.
Canadian retailers can pick-up Christmas gift boxes and kraft paper gift bags at Canadian Tire, where they can also grab themselves a half-price pre-lit Christmas tree!
In Australia, leading manufacturer PaperPak has a fabulous range of Christmas gift bags to choose from, whilst there's still time to get your own custom printed paper bags if you want to make your brand go that bit further.
As much of the UK prepares to come out of lockdown, retailers looking for a pre-Christmas boost can grab some fantastic festive special offers at Polybags.
The UK's number one polythene manufacturer currently has a whopping 20% off stylish gift carrier bags and tough and sleek black security mailing bags - perfect for those last-minute Christmas deliveries.
With over 100 million polythene bags in stock - including an extensive range of carrier bags and a huge selection of eco-packaging - plus fast-free UK delivery on all orders with next-day or express options, whatever packaging your business needs this Christmas, Polybags has got you covered.
With the welcome confirmation that Santa is immune to covid-19, it looks like Christmas 2020 will be saved, so don't delay there's no time like the present to get your festive packaging sorted.
Product images courtesy of Polybags.co.uk, Boxandwrap.com, Canadiantire.ca and Paperpak.co.
Ribena redesign targets '100% bottle-to-bottle' recycling
Ribena, one of the UK's favourite drinks brands, has unveiled a new '100% recycled' bottle that will save over 200 tonnes of plastic per year.
The new design, which features a drastically reduced sleeve, will also improve the brand's recycling rates within the current UK recycling infrastructure.
Although the current Ribena bottle is made from clear, recyclable plastic, the long dark sleeve that covers it can prevent sensors at some recycling plants from identifying the bottle and sorting it into the correct recycling stream.
Ribena says the new design makes it the UK’s largest soft drinks brand to use bottles which are made from 100% recycled plastic and are 100% bottle-to-bottle recyclable.
Suntory Beverage and Food GB and Ireland (SBF GB&I), who own the Ribena brand, invested £1.6m on the redesign, which took two years to complete.
The company sees the development as a key step in reaching its targets of making plastic packaging "completely sustainable" by 2030 and reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Recycled plastic helps towards this second aim as it has a lower carbon footprint than virgin plastic.
From January 2021, all 500ml Ribena bottles manufactured in the UK and Ireland will feature the new design.
Suntory also plans to roll out the design to two of its other brands, Lucozade Sport and Lucozade Energy, within the next 18 months - which will reportedly save 1,100 tonnes of plastic each year.
Carol Robert, COO at SBF GB&I, said: "Making sure that our bottles can be easily recycled and turned back into bottles is an important part of our journey towards full circularity and net zero emissions.
"Simplifying the packaging of our drinks to help consumers to recycle is just one of our many investments in making our soft drinks more sustainable. From climate-change resilient blackcurrants to promoting biodiversity on our farms, we’re working to make Ribena more sustainable from bush to bottle."
The new design was welcomed by the Recycling Association, WRAP and the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
Environment minister Rebecca Pow MP said: "It is this kind of innovation that we want to see to create a more circular economy for our waste and resources, with more materials being recycled and reused and less being consigned to landfill or incineration."
Record number of temps to boost Royal Mail effort this Christmas
Royal Mail has announced plans to hire a record 33,000 temporary workers this Christmas - an increase of two-thirds on usual levels.
The news comes as UK retailers prepare for a frenzy of online Christmas shopping due to covid-19, with over half of consumers planning to buy more online presents this festive season.
Royal Mail traditionally hires 20,000 temporary staff to cope with the Christmas rush but, with the pandemic forcing shoppers online as high streets close across the country, an extra 13,000 temps will be brought in this year.
The extra staff will help with deliveries and in sorting offices and data centres.
Sally Ashford, chief human resources officer at the Royal Mail, said: "During these unprecedented times we believe it is critical that Royal Mail continues to deliver.
"We want to do our best to deliver Christmas for our customers and support the effort on the pandemic. This helps the whole country to celebrate and stay safe during these difficult times."
Retail analysts predict that online shopping will eclipse high street shopping this year for the first time - 31% of shopping was done online last Christmas - as the pandemic forces a significant change in consumer behaviour.
In line with this, a Post Office survey has revealed that more than one in five people (22%) have already decided to send gifts via the post rather than giving them in person this year, whilst over half (51%) plan to buy more presents online this year.
Many retailers have been forced to adapt to the changing marketplace and their packaging needs have changed as a result, with mailing bag orders on the up as online transactions increasingly supplement in-store sales.
For those retailers who may be new to e-commerce, the good news is that the choice of mailing bags available on the market today has never been greater.
Leading UK manufacturer Polybags has recently expanded their market-leading range of eco-packaging with a number of new eco-friendly mailing bags, including starch-based compostable mailers and carbon-neutral renewable I'm Green mailers.
These new eco-friendly postage solutions supplement Polybags' extensive range of mailing bags, which has something to meet every business' delivery needs this Christmas - from extra-strong heavy duty mailers to sparkling bubble-lined mailers.
Mark Siviter, managing director of mails and retail at the Post Office, said: "We know this Christmas will be unlike any most of us have ever experienced, but our desire to show loved ones we care about them through cards and gift giving hasn’t diminished.
"We know we’ll be extra busy this year and there will be extra Christmas helpers in branch to support. We are also urging everyone to plan ahead by posting early and visiting branches during off-peak hours where possible."
Asda trials new 'sustainability store'
Supermarket giant Asda has taken a step towards a greener future with the opening of a new sustainability trial store that aims to save one million pieces of plastic per year.
The new store in Middleton, Leeds, is designed to help shoppers reduce, reuse and recycle with ease, with a promise from Asda that customers will not pay more for greener options.
The initiative sees the UK's third biggest supermarket partner with popular household brands to allow customers to refill containers with some of the nation's favourite products, whilst over 50 lines of fresh produce will now be sold without any wrapping.
Asda - who unveiled a new plastics reduction strategy at the launch - estimates the numerous initiatives being trialled in the store will save one million pieces of plastic per year.
Those elements of the trial that appeal most to customers could be rolled out to more locations as early as next year, provided they can be developed to scale.
Features of the new trial store include:
- Refill stations with more than 30 household staples sold in refillable format
- Featured brands include Kellogg’s cereals, PG Tips tea bags, Lavazza coffee, Persil laundry detergent, Radox shower gel and Asda’s own brand rice and pasta
- 53 lines of fresh produce (including 29 new lines) sold in loose and unwrapped format
- Recycling facilities catering for difficult-to-recycle items, such as crisp and biscuit packets, plastic toys, cosmetic containers and toothpaste tubes
- Asda’s first reverse vending machine for cans, plastic and glass drinks bottles
Asda CEO and president Roger Burnley said the move marked an "important milestone" as the company tackles plastic pollution and "help customers to reduce, re-use and recycle".
"We have always known that we couldn’t go on this journey alone, so it is fantastic to work in tandem with more than 20 of our partners and suppliers, who have answered the call to test innovative sustainable solutions with us," said Burnley.
"This is an issue that matters greatly to our customers. We want to give them the opportunity to live more sustainably by offering them great product choices and value, underpinned by a promise that they won’t pay more for greener options at Asda."
Nina Schrank, lead plastics campaigner at Greenpeace UK, welcomed the move.
"By offering innovative refill stations, loose fruit and vegetables and plenty of sustainably sourced household goods, Asda have bought what used to be a niche shopping experience into the mainstream, all under one roof," she said.
"We hope that this store is the first of many; we need to see so much more of this from across the supermarket sector."
Image courtesy of Asda.
Aldi scraps single-use plastic bags for fruit and veg
Supermarket giant Aldi has announced plans to scrap single-use bags for loose fruit and veg from all of its stores by the end of the year.
Britain's fifth largest supermarket - which runs almost 900 stores across the UK - says the move will save more than 100 tonnes of plastic a year.
Shoppers will instead be encouraged to bring their own containers to the store, or spend 25p on a new reusable drawstring bag, which is made from recycled bottles.
The German-owned company is one of the first UK supermarkets to commit to a ban on single-use produce bags. The move follows a successful trial in 100 of its stores across the Midlands earlier this year.
"Aldi is committed to reducing plastic waste, and evolving our approach to the sale and distribution of our bags is a critical part of that," said Chris McKenry, plastics and packaging director at Aldi UK & Ireland.
"We've already made good headway with removing and replacing avoidable plastics across our product range, but now it is time to step things up when it comes to bags and providing our customers with sustainable alternatives."
In July, Aldi announced an ambitious new commitment to halve the volume of plastic packaging it uses - equating to 74,000 tonnes - by 2025.
The supermarket has been carbon neutral since January 2019 and rolled out compostable carrier bags to all its UK stores in January 2020, after they proved more popular than paper bags in a customer trial.
The news comes as leading UK manufacturer Polybags launched a new range of compostable carrier bags to further extend its market-leading range of eco-friendly packaging.
The company says the new-look classic carrier bag - which can be disposed of in industrial or home composting and complies with standard EN13432 - offers a dual-purpose, serving as a shopping bag and then as a food waste bag.
Aldi claims to be on track to having all own-label products as recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2022, with branded products sold by the retailer to follow suit by 2025.
Image courtesy of Aldi.
Comic Relief reveals 100% plastic-free red nose
Comic Relief has revealed its first ever 100% plastic-free red nose.
The plant-based red nose is made from bagasse - a natural by-product of sugar cane - chosen for its widely-celebrated sustainable qualities.
The new nose will be available to buy from January, ahead of Red Nose Day 2021, which takes place on 19 March.
Inspired by messages from children to produce a plastic-free version of the famous nose, Comic Relief and long-standing partner Sainsbury's carried out extensive research and testing into suitable plastic-free alternative materials.
The new nose has taken over 18 months to develop and will be available in 10 different characters to represent the great outdoors, including a squirrel, fox and badger.
"It is amazing what you can create from a sugar cane product," said Comic Relief co-founder Richard Curtis.
"Our new nose marks a strong step on our sustainability journey. We are committed to designing a more sustainable nose every year, while continuing to make them attractive and fun, and recognise we still have a lot of work to do in creating the perfect model.
"But this journey is an exciting one and we thank all the children and supporters who let us know they wanted a plastic free-option. Children are at the heart of our Red Nose Day campaign and their opinions are really important to us."
The red nose first launched in 1988 when Curtis and fellow Comic Relief founder, Sir Lenny Henry, wanted to create a symbol to represent the charity and its first event.
Over three decades later, the red nose has raised over £70 million for good causes, helping to change countless lives in the UK and all over the world.
The charity says it is committed to developing the material used to make its red nose every year, with a goal to create a version that is compostable at home in the near future.
Tony Bosworth, plastics campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: "Everyone knows how extensive plastic pollution is and what it does to wildlife so it's good that the famous Comic Relief nose will be plastic free.
"We need alternative and better solutions to avoid single-use plastic everywhere and this should be led by industry and government. We look forward to Comic Relief making sure that all of its materials are environmentally friendly."
Find out more at comicrelief.com/nose. Image courtesy of Comic Relief.
Carrier bag charge to double to 10p in England
Small shops no longer exempt from charge, as campaigners say 'bags for life' must be next
The charge for carrier bags in supermarkets will double to 10p in England from April 2021, whilst the exemption for smaller retailers will also be withdrawn, the Government has announced.
Currently, only retailers with more than 250 employees have to pay the 5p levy on all carrier bags sold - a charge introduced in 2015 in an attempt to reduce plastic pollution.
Since then, Defra points to a 95% reduction in carrier bag sales in England's major supermarkets as evidence of a successful policy.
However, this appears to conveniently ignore a huge increase in the use of 'bags for life' in UK supermarkets, as their overall use of plastic increased last year.
Announcing the new carrier bag charge, environment secretary George Eustice said: "We have all seen the devastating impact plastic bags have on the oceans and on precious marine wildlife, which is why we are taking bold and ambitious action to tackle this issue head on.
"The UK is already a world-leader in this global effort, and our carrier bag charge has been hugely successful in taking billions of harmful plastic bags out of circulation. But we want to go further by extending this to all retailers so we can continue to cut unnecessary waste and build back greener."
Environmental campaigners welcomed the move, but urged the Government to do more about the increased use of stronger bags for life, with evidence suggesting that many consumers are treating these sturdy, reusable bags in the same way as so-called 'single use' carrier bags.
Last year, the Environmental Investigation Agency and Greenpeace reported a 25% increase in sales of bags for life compared to 2018, with a staggering 1.5 billion sold across the UK - the equivalent of 54 per household.
The reusability of bags for life may appeal to consumers seeking to choose the most eco-friendly shopping bag, but a much higher carbon footprint means they must be used at least four times to make them more eco-friendly than a traditional carrier bag used just once.
"By raising the price of plastic bags again, the government is taking a small step in the right direction, but by now they should be taking great strides," Sam Chetan-Welsh, a political campaigner at Greenpeace, told The Guardian.
"Reinstating the previous price of carrier bags but not taking action on bags for life is only looking at one part of the problem."
The debate over the most eco-friendly solution for shoppers continues, with some supermarket chains trialling alternative solutions.
Morrison's recently announced plans to ditch their bags for life, replacing them with sturdy paper alternatives in a trial across eight of its stores.
If the trial proves a success, Morrison's plan to provide only paper bags across all 494 of its stores, which it claims that it would save 90 million plastic bags being used each year - the equivalent of more than 3.5 thousand tonnes of plastic annually.
But whilst paper bags pose less of a litter problem than plastic bags and are widely recyclable, to focus on the end of the bag's life-cycle does not tell the full story.
A new online tool from leading UK manufacturer Polybags allows customers to compare different bags on a series of eco-factors across their entire life-cycles - and in a head-to-head of plastic bags versus paper bags, the former comes out on top as the most eco-friendly product overall, largely due to its lower carbon footprint and greater reusability.
Outside of England, all UK retailers - including smaller retailers - already charge a minimum of 5p for plastic bags.
A carrier bag levy was first introduced in Wales in 2011. Northern Ireland and Scotland followed suit in 2013 and 2014 respectively, before England introduced its own plastic bag charge in October 2015.
Bacteria offers potential plastic manufacturing breakthrough
Discovery could 'open the door' for making plastic without fossil fuels
Scientists in the United States have made a discovery that could potentially lead to new ways to produce plastics without the use of fossil fuels.
The researchers have found a previously unknown way that some bacteria produce the chemical ethylene - a fundamental part of the plastic-making process.
Ethylene traditionally derives from fossil fuels and is widely used in the manufacturing of nearly all plastics.
The study, published in the journal Science, showed that ethylene gas was created by the bacteria as a by-product of metabolising sulfur - which they need to survive - using a process that could make it very valuable in manufacturing.
"We may have cracked a major technological barrier to producing a large amount of ethylene gas that could replace fossil fuel sources in making plastics," said Justin North, a research scientist in microbiology at The Ohio State University and the study's lead author.
"There’s still a lot of work to do to develop these strains of bacteria to produce industrially significant quantities of ethylene gas. But this opens the door."
Currently, ethylene is created using oil or natural gas. Bacteria had previously been discovered that can also create ethylene, but the need for oxygen in that process provided a barrier to its production.
"Oxygen plus ethylene is explosive," said Robert Tabita, professor of microbiology at Ohio State and senior author of the study - a collaboration with Colorado State University and two national laboratories.
"That is a major hurdle for using it in manufacturing, but the bacterial system we discovered to produce ethylene works without oxygen and that gives us a significant technological advantage."
You can read a more detailed report on the research findings on the Ohio State University website.
Leading packaging manufacturer launches eco-comparison tool
Polybags tool provides fun way to compare green credentials of packaging options
How eco-friendly is the packaging that you buy?
Businesses and consumers alike have never been more switched on to the ecological impact of the packaging they use but, in what is a very complex area with a myriad of options, it's not always clear what the most eco-friendly choice is.
So it is refreshing to see one leading UK manufacturer take a new and engaging approach to help clear things up, as Polybags launches a brand new eco-comparison tool to help customers choose the right kind of packaging for them.
Compostable, bio-additive, paper and recycled polythene bags all feature, alongside regular polythene bags, bags for life and cotton bags, as well as glass and metal packaging.
Customers choose two products to compare head-to-head across a series of eco-factors over their entire life cycle - from their carbon footprint in production to their recyclability - with the results presented in an eye-catching and informative way.
The snazzy animated tool scrolls through the various eco-factors, with each product awarded either a smiley, straight or sad face, depending on their eco-credentials for that factor, whilst a fun Batman-style zap declares the winner for each.
It's a fun and interesting way of breaking down a complex argument and the results - explained in detail for those interested - will no doubt surprise some customers and challenge a few misconceptions.
For example, a paper bag may be recyclable, but how many people know that its higher carbon footprint means it must be used at least three times to make it more eco-friendly than a traditional carrier bag used just once?
Or that an 'eco-friendly' cotton bag needs to be used a staggering 320 times to have a lower global warming potential than a traditional carrier bag reused just once?
Weighing one eco-factor against another is invariably difficult - e.g. how important is a product's carbon footprint compared to its compostability or its litter impact? - and the answer will often come down to personal choice.
Polybags have used a simplistic approach to tackle a very complex argument and so the results should be viewed with a degree of caution.
But with eco-friendly choices becoming increasingly important in all aspects of our everyday life, this new eco-comparison tool provides a useful, fun and engaging way to get people thinking about the true environmental impact of the packaging we use on a day-to-day basis.
Main image screenshot courtesy of Polybags.co.uk.
Evian unveils label-free bottle made from 100% recycled plastic
Global mineral water brand Evian has unveiled a new label-free bottle that is made from 100% recycled plastic and is fully recyclable.
The clear bottle, which features an engraved brand name and logo, is made from 100% recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET).
Evian's traditional blue cap is replaced by a new pink cap, which is not made from rPET, but is fully recyclable.
The new 400ml bottles will only be available in selected hotels, restaurants and hospitality firms in France from early July, with plans to extend this to other countries by September.
The French company hopes the new bottle marks a key milestone in its journey to becoming a 'fully circular' brand by 2025, when it plans to make all of its bottles - excluding caps - from 100% rPET.
Shweta Harit, Evian's global brand vice president, said the label-free, 100% recycled bottle was "tangible proof of our commitment to becoming a fully circular brand by 2025".
"It is now more important than ever for us to bring consumers our natural mineral water in a more sustainable way, as we owe everything to nature," she added.
Emmanuelle Giraudon, engineer in research and innovation at Danone, the company which owns the Evian brand, said the bottle's launch marked an exciting development.
"This new innovation is so exciting as it is not just any bottle; it is recyclable, made from 100% recycled plastic, and label-free, and has been specifically designed to minimize environmental impact," said Giraudon.
"Thanks to the engraving, we can preserve the natural beauty of the bottle and be closer to the water’s purity. We wanted to keep the 'Evian touch' when designing the bottle, and we created a new pink cap especially for it.
"Our revolution makes old plastic the ultimate new innovation."
Image courtesy of Evian.
Will face mask rules for public transport in England add pressure to PPE supply chains?
The packaging industry is traditionally associated with the protective packaging of products and items, not so much the packaging of people.
With the advent of coronavirus, many packaging companies - particularly those who specialise in plastic packaging - have switched their focus to what is normally a smaller part of their market: the manufacture of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Plastic-based PPE such as polythene aprons, perspex face guards and face masks made from woven and non-woven polypropylene - effectively packaging to protect people - has suddenly found itself in scarce supply over recent months.
The industry adapted relatively quickly with UK shortages addressed in the short-term by international packaging companies, such as Selegna Tekstil in Turkey - although not without well-publicised problems.
UK companies were also quick to increase production and invest in additional machinery to fill the gaps but now, as regulations on mandatory face coverings increase, there are fresh concerns over new pressure on face mask supplies.
Face coverings have been made compulsory on public transport and in hospitals in England from 15 June, whilst the British Medical Association - the doctors' union - has urged the government to make the coverings mandatory whenever social distancing is not possible, not just on public transport.
Emerging studies  have also suggested that face masks can considerably reduce the spread of Covid-19, so pressure may yet increase further on the government to mandate the use of face coverings on a wider scale.
With the government advising the public to use regular face coverings - which can be homemade - rather than medical-grade 'surgical' face masks, does that mean there is a shortage of face masks?
Jon Lomax of Polybags Ltd, leading UK manufacturers of packaging including PPE products, said: "We have an excellent supply of three-ply surgical face masks and respirators and are even offering a discount at the moment. The supply chain is adapting to the added need for certain PPE products and surgical face masks, in particular, are now much more readily available to consumers."
Other companies like Kite Packaging, Packaging2Buy and Amazon are also stocking face masks, although not all of these companies are displaying full certification for the masks on their websites. Amazon too has many market-place sellers, although customer reviews suggest delivery times of up to a month as delivery is often fulfilled directly from the sellers in China.
High street brands such as Boots have also entered the market and many new suppliers have sprung up to supply novelty and designer face coverings - although these generally do not offer the same properties of 95-98% bacterial and small particle filtration offered by certified face masks and respirators.
So what exactly are the new rules for face coverings on public transport?
In England the use of face coverings will only apply to passengers actually on public transport and not those who are waiting to board. However, the rail industry has said they will ask people to cover their face as they enter a station. Uber taxis have also made it mandatory for all passengers and drivers to wear face coverings.
At the time of writing, face coverings are not mandatory in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, although each of the devolved governments recommend that members of the public wear face coverings on public transport and in other situations where it is difficult to maintain social distancing.
 Timo Mitze, Reinhold Kosfeld, Johannes Rode, Klaus Wälde (2020), 'Face Masks Considerably Reduce COVID-19 Cases in Germany: A Synthetic Control Method Approach', Institute of Labor Economics (IZA DP No. 13319)
Andrex packaging to use 30% recycled plastic
Andrex has announced that its plastic packaging is to feature 30% recycled content, in a bid to reduce its environmental footprint.
The leading toilet tissue brand, famous for its puppy adverts, also aims to reach at least 50% recycled content in its packaging by 2023.
Andrex's new packaging features 30% recycled plastic content, made from post-consumer resin. It will be used on their Classic Clean packs, which are expected to be available at all major retailers this month.
The company says that the switch will remove 481 tonnes of virgin plastic material over the next 12 months - equivalent to more than 48 million 500ml plastic bottles.
"At Andrex, we are committed to improving the sustainability of our products and packaging," said Ori Ben Shai, vice president and managing director of Kimberly-Clark UK, which owns Andrex.
"The launch of the new 30% recycled plastic packaging forms part of our wider ambition to leave a greener 'pawprint' on the planet.
"Beyond this, we aim to have at least 50% recycled plastic content in our packaging by 2023, and we will continue to look for more sustainable alternatives that reduce our environmental footprint, without compromising on the quality of our products that our customers know and love."
Andrex's move comes as the UK moves towards a minimum percentage of recycled content in plastic packaging.
From April 2022, all plastic packaging produced in or imported into the UK containing less than 30% recycled plastic will be subject to a new plastic packaging tax.
The government plans to publish draft legislation for consultation in 2020, setting out the key features of the tax, which includes a proposed tax rate of £200 per tonne.
One UK packaging company that is already ahead of the game is Polybags Ltd, which has already begun to convert some stock lines to have a minimum of 30% recycled content, whilst updating its online catalogue to highlight products containing recycled content.
The Greenford company has led the way in the UK eco-packaging market in recent years, manufacturing a range of products made entirely from recycled materials, including mailing bags, clear packing bags and waste sacks.
Now, as part of their drive to promote eco-packaging, the company's online catalogue will also alert customers when the products they are viewing contain a minimum of 30%, 50%, 60% or 100% recycled content.
Polybags customers can also expect to see other eco-friendly packaging features highlighted, including packaging made from compostable, biodegradable, renewable or recyclable materials.
Image courtesy of Kimberly-Clark UK.
Mutant enzyme gives hope of plastic recycling breakthrough
Scientists have created a mutant enzyme that is able to break down plastic bottles for recycling in a matter of hours.
The new enzyme reduces polyethylene terephthalate (PET) - the plastic used to make most plastic drinks bottles - into chemical building blocks that can then be used to create high-quality new recycled bottles.
Independent experts have hailed the breakthrough, revealed in the scientific journal Nature, as a major advance for the recycling industry.
The novel enzyme, one of 100,000 micro-organisms screened by French company Carbios and their academic partner, the Toulouse Biotechnology Institute, was originally found in a compost heap of leaves.
"It had been completely forgotten, but it turned out to be the best," said Professor Alain Marty, Carbios' chief scientific officer and co-author of the report.
The team of researchers analysed the enzyme and introduced mutations to improve its ability to break down PET.
Using the optimised enzyme, the scientists were able to break down a tonne of waste plastic bottles, achieving a minimum 90% degradation within 10 hours, before using the material to create new food-grade plastic bottles.
Plastic pollution is one of the biggest ecological crises facing humankind today. An estimated eight million tonnes of plastic waste is dumped annually into the world's oceans.
PET is one of the world's most common plastics. It is used to manufacture bottles, polyester clothing fibres, food containers and other thermoformed packaging. However, current technology means recycled plastic bottles can usually only produce plastic of a lower quality.
Carbios is aiming to use the new enzyme for industrial-scale recycling within five years, partnering with Pepsi and L’Oréal to accelerate development.
Dr Saleh Jabarin, a professor at the University of Toledo in Ohio, USA, and a member of Carbios' scientific committee, said: "It's a real breakthrough in the recycling and manufacturing of PET. Thanks to the innovative technology developed by Carbios, the PET industry will become truly circular, which is the goal for all players in this industry, especially brand-owners, PET producers and our civilisation as a whole."
Volunteers and manufacturers join fight to tackle PPE shortage
The fight to tackle the shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) available to NHS staff and care home workers has been boosted by the efforts of volunteers and manufacturers across the UK.
The government has faced criticism for its failure to arm front-line workers with suitable PPE to tackle the Covid-19 epidemic, with the BBC's Panorama programme exposing an absence of stockpiled protective gowns and visors when the virus reached UK shores.
Whilst the government tries to boost its stockpile amidst a global shortage of equipment, some UK manufacturers have helped out by diversifying their output to support front line staff.
Northern Irish sports manufacturer O'Neill's switched output in its Strabane factory from kit and teamwear to medical scrubs for front line workers, whilst luxury fashion house Burberry transformed its trench coat factory in Castleford to make non-surgical gowns.
Meanwhile, leading packaging manufacturer Polybags has expanded its own Hygiene and PPE range, which features a number of product lines, including protective face masks, full face shields, disposable aprons and polythene gloves.
Whilst businesses have been adapting to help the NHS in the fight against Coronavirus, volunteers across the UK have also been doing their bit to support the national effort.
When a London doctor put out a call for protective face visors to friends on WhatsApp, her appeal snowballed via social media and a project labelled the 'Visor Army' soon led to the creation of 75,000 shields from concerned helpers.
Dr Deborah Braham, a consultant in anaesthesia and intensive care medicine at Hammersmith Hospital in west London, told the BBC she was "overwhelmed" by the response.
"Initially it was just people I knew who came on board, then it was people I didn't know," she said. "Within a short time this whole thing had grown so big with so many people wanting to help.
"It's given a lot of people a real sense of purpose and contribution in what are very difficult times. It's been a real community effort and I cannot thank these people enough."
Image courtesy of Polybags.