Polyoak innovates through pandemic
POLYOAK Packaging embraced the important role it plays in ensuring uninterrupted supply of essential packaging for food, beverages and products throughout the COVID lockdown during which it took proactive steps early on to ensure the safety of its people and bolster its operations.
Before the official lockdown commenced, the country-wide group had already placed preventative measures and internal communications in place with hand washing stations, spatial distancing and wearing of masks. Employees were provided with personal hand sanitisers and taxi fares were subsidised to enable spatial distancing whilst commuting from home to workplace. Special COVID-19 educational material was developed in English, Afrikaans, Xhosa, Zulu and Sesotho to enable employees to share safety guidelines within their communities.
“COVID has changed the way we work,” said Polyoak group managing director, Jeremy Mackintosh.
“Polyoak embraces this chance for continued improvement. Our business is robust, and we have succeeded through some tough conditions. We salute our customers and suppliers who continue to support us through the lockdown, as well as our dedicated employees working under difficult conditions to ensure that we don’t let our customers and the nation down.
“The remarkable thing about the lockdown for Polyoak has been the response of our staff in upholding safety protocols, but also in the way they have donated portions of their personal earnings to support those in need,” added Mackintosh.
Polyoak continues to operate under strict safety protocols as it emerges from a period of significant demand for drums and bottles used for sanitisers, cleaning detergents and chemicals, as the packaging industry starts to normalise.
PET medical spacer
COVID-19 has presented some unexpected opportunities.
“We relished the chance to innovate outside of our usual field of expertise,” said Polyoak technical director, Karl Lambrecht. “We partnered with the Red Cross Children’s Hospital in Cape Town to bridge the gap between expensive commercial asthma spacers and the need in low-income communities by creating a custom blow-mould base with an indentation in the shape of an asthma pump nozzle.”
During production, when the bottle is blown and the plastic is still soft, air is blasted into the bottle base which creates the inhaler size entrance. After that, the only small manual task is to slice off the end of the indentation, leaving a perfect-fit attachment hole for the inhaler.
Now known as the ‘PET medical spacer,’ the device is recognised by the Western Cape Government’s Social Development Department and has also been taken on by major government hospitals and clinics in the Western Cape, Gauteng and KZN. The plus is that the container is fully recyclable.
The design has also been recognised as a Gold Pack Finalist, as an example of innovative thinking to help meet the demand for practical and cost-effective health care solutions for struggling communities.
Polyoak also recently launched a new range of 28mm neck bell bottles with trigger sprays to facilitate the dispersion of liquids such as cleaning detergents, sanitisers and pesticides. The recyclable bottles are embossed on the side with measurement markings to assist with mixing concentrates to the required ratio and can be screen printed for impactful branding or usage instructions.
Supporting recycling and communities through COVID
As manufacturers of fully recyclable packaging that is widely recycled, Polyoak is extremely concerned about the almost 90,000 informal waste reclaimers who were unable to earn a living during the lockdown and who are still struggling as recycling is slow to get going again.
As an urgent intervention, Polyoak donated nearly one million rand to the Waste Pickers organisation to provide electronic food vouchers for around 5 000 registered collectors across KZN and Free State to help feed their families.
The lockdown also destroyed income earning opportunities for those living hand-to-mouth on what they earn each day as car guards and informal traders. To assist in KZN, Polyoak partnered with the Umgeni Relief Network to help distribute 10 000 food parcels consisting of maize, samp, beans, toilet paper, sugar, salt and cooking oil.
“Local community support is extremely important at this difficult time. This partnership has helped to feed nearly 40,000 needy residents from the Shivabazali informal settlement near Howick,” said Derek Ridgard, Polyoak regional director for KZN.
Polyoak and its people have donated 6 million rand to community initiatives to provide much-needed support across South Africa through the Solidarity Fund, Waste Pickers and Gift of the Givers, with some regional projects too.