Fears of coronavirus contagion and depressed commodity prices have gutted much of Alberta’s economy but there is one sector experiencing a surge: the province’s petrochemical sector, which produces a range of plastic inputs used in medical devices and packaging of everyday goods.

“Demand so far has been steady. While we have seen some cancelled orders, we are experiencing increased demand for many grades of polyethylene to meet the needs of essential businesses, especially food packaging, e-commerce and medical packaging,” NOVA Chemicals Corp.’s senior vice-president John Thayer said in an emailed statement to the Financial Post.

In 2019, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government would move to ban single-use plastics such as shopping bags, cutlery and straws to curb the proliferation of plastic waste in landfills and oceans.

Now, in the middle of a public health crisis, the demand for plastic packaging has exploded. In Alberta’s oilpatch, ethane crackers used to make polyethylene film are among the only facilities that are busier today than before the pandemic knocked out global oil demand and led to hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil being shut in.

“The demand for plastic packaging has never been higher than it is right now,” said Bob Masterson, president and CEO of the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada, noting that the evidence of the huge demand for the industry’s products is plain at any grocery store in the country.

Whether the coronavirus and fears about contagion has permanently altered consumer attitudes toward plastic is another question.

Read the full and original article at Business.FinancialPost.com