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A donation of face-shield materials transforms into new business niche

22 Dec 2020

The HDPE bottle closure and food-grade APET film manufacturer RETAL Baltic Films which operates out of Klaipėda FEZ, drew the country’s attention in mid-March by donating three tonnes of rare materials to a group of makers which manufactured and distributed protective face shielding to medics. Today, the company is celebrating that this decision not only helped during a difficult moment for the society, but also allowed to open a new commercial niche over summer.

In March, during the period of most concern and uncertainty, members of the tech creator community Robotikos Mokykla [School of Robotics] released an online call for contributions for making protective face shielding for medics. The young engineers manufactured frames, but at the time they were greatly lacking the most important component part – firm, transparent, fog-free plastic shields, which could cover the eyes and face.

RETAL Baltic Films noted this request, and after adjusting manufacturing processes as per the requirements of Robotikos Mokykla, the company created film that was suitable for use with face shields. Now, thanks to the community of enterprising creators, more than 70 thousand face shields have been manufactured which were distributed free of charge to Lithuanian medics and other professionals.

RETAL Baltic Films regional sales head Indrė Bagdonaitė explains that in March-April, the demand for this APET film was globally unprecedented to the point that there wasn’t enough of the material, and so the company was glad to be able to assist the medical community. Later over the summer, the demand for this material declined, but new uses for it emerged.  For example, it could be used in producing transparent protective shielding used in stores, catering establishments, offices and other client service locations, with the company exporting most of this film for making large protective shielding.

According to I. Bagdonaitė, upon finding out about the operations of RETAL Baltic Films, , the company was contacted for large scale commercial orders of this film by the Swedish packaging solution company INP Forpackningar over the summer, as well as another major but confidential client.

“Of course, in spring, we did not even think about the commercial aspects of this product – we specialise in food-grade film and bottle closures. However, we are very glad that by refusing to be indifferent to medics’ needs, we later used the technical and project experience for commercial projects as well. At the moment, protective film for shielding comprises no more than 5 per cent of our manufacturing output, but if the environment were to change, we would be prepared to ramp up these new segments in order to donate to medics and supply market participants safely and reliably,” I. Bagdonaitė says.

Over this year, extra contracts for this type of film have reached more than 700 tonnes. In total, the company predicts it will produce almost 25 thousand tonnes of production, mostly food-grade film and bottle closures.

According to I. Bagdonaitė, APET (amorphous polyethene terephthalate or amorphous PET)  is a material which is used for protective shielding, and it is known for not only its excellent chemical parameters, its firmness, lightness and convenient maintenance, it is also environmentally friendly. APET shields can be re-used by washing them between uses, while the APET material itself is 100 per cent recyclable.

RETAL Baltic Films belongs to the international group RETAL Industries Ltd., which produces the highest quality Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) packaging solutions, including preforms, bottle closures, containers and films, and exports its products to more than 60 countries around the world. In Lithuania, the RETAL Group owns the PET manufacturer UAB NEO GROUP, and the Lentvaris-based PET preform maker UAB RETAL Lithuania.

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