BCF: Raw material shortages could impact the availability of food packaging

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

An industrial printing machine.
Ethanol and n-propanol are key inputs into the production of printed packaging inks. Image source: industrieblick  - stock.adobe.com (symbol image) -

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.

The UK printing industry supply chain are 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 fulfil their role in producing food and other essential packaging throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. 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.

Availability issues are arising

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 obvious 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.

A robust response to COVID-19 is understandable according to the BCF but if allocation of resources was diverted entirely in the health/sanitary product direction – so tells the industry association -, there would inevitably be knock-on effects elsewhere, including on vital printed packaging for food and pharmaceutical products.

Tom Bowtell, CEO of the British Coatings Federation said: “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 future. 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.”

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