From acrylic to PVC, everyone wants plastic barriers this pandemic

In a time when getting too close to someone is to be avoided at all costs, plastic barriers have become a hot commodity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wait times for certain plastics from manufacturers in the U.S. can be up to six months.

Customer service barriers have become popular at public places during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Submitted by Jeff Lunn)

In a time when getting too close to someone is trying to be avoided at all costs, plastic barriers have become a hot commodity.

Whether used to separate staff from customers at a grocery checkout, or employees in a company lunchroom, there's been a significant demand for clear plastic during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"There was a time two months ago where if somebody was looking for a shield or a barrier of some sort, we would probably get them something within two or three days," said Jeff Lunn, the general manager of Polymershapes, a plastic sheet distributor operating in London, Ont.

"Right now for all transparent plastics, and there's a number of choices, the delivery dates from manufacturers are sometimes as far as 24 weeks out," he said. 

"It seems like every day another week is added," said Lunn, referring to the delays.

The main issue, Lunn explained, is that the sheets of plastic are actually manufactured and shipped from the United States. With high demand from across North America, depending on the type of plastic a person or company is looking for, the wait time can be extensive. 

Lunn says demand for certain types of barriers has shifted as more companies are looking for better ways to protect their employees, not just from customers, but from one another during the pandemic. At Polymershapes, they've put up plastic table top barriers in their lunchrooms. (Submitted by Jeff Lunn)

Lunn said that the type of barrier people and companies are shopping for has also shifted throughout the pandemic. 

"For a few weeks we were fundamentally just making barriers that you would see on the counter [at your local drug store or gas station], but now that we're seeing a lot more of the plants opening, you know, they've got to start thinking about their employees," he said. 

Despite the demand and increase in sales for plastics used for barriers, Lunn said the surge in business is actually making up for the loss in sales of their more traditional products sold before the pandemic.

Is clear plastic the new toilet paper? As businesses and workplaces rush to put up plexiglass shields, it's kept Jeff Lunn very busy. He's the general manager of Polymer Shapes in London. 6:37