With COVID-19, two items on an upward swing

ALPENA — In Northeast Michigan and across the nation, residential doorsteps are being stacked with numerous shipping boxes.

And, since March, residents and employees in numerous environments are now protected by a variety of acrylic glass barriers.

The Alpena Post Office postmaster, Robert Gross, comparing 2018 to 2019, said corrugated box and other local delivery items were up nearly 100%. He added that, with COVID-19’s arrival and the increase of e-commerce to an isolated region, Alpena and the region’s post offices will continue to see a delivery surge.

Matt O’Connor, senior manager of public relations with Atlanta, Georgia-based United Parcel Service, revealed UPS’s residential deliveries and business deliveries was a close 50-50 ratio. Since COVID-19’s arrival, however, residential is now up to 70%, he said. Responding to the demand, UPS has added 39,000 full- and part-time employees for small package deliveries.

In Rogers City, John Plath, co-owner of Plath’s Meats, experienced a 20% shipment increase during this past April-to-June cycle. He expects a shipping increase during the late fall and into the winter. Plath’s has been shipping food goods since the 1930s. They also have another retail operation in Petoskey.

Plath’s box supplier is Grand Traverse Container, where President John Blain revealed food container and other similar product offerings are up 10% to 15% percent over the past eight months.

“My current major challenge is recruiting labor,” he said.

Rachel Kenyon, senior vice president of the Fiber Box Association in suburban Chicago, represents box manufacturers across the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. She is a graduate of Michigan State University, which has a renowned school of packaging.

She revealed that, in the last 12 to 15 years, with the e-commerce increase, the early-on challenges were right sizing the shipping box inventory.

With the arrival of COVID-19, food and related shipment container manufacturing was up this summer through September 8.8%. Food and beverage box production represents 40% of the association members’ production.

With corrugated box manufacturing, 92% of the boxes are remanufactured into new boxes.

Just off Alpena’s South State Avenue is Alpena Glass, with nearly a 70-year retailing history. Owner Dave Bauer revealed that, since COVID 19 ‘s arrival, his firm early on offered only emergency services for a month. From April to current time, acrylic glass sales soared six times over traditional sales.

With expertise in stocking and installing acrylic glass, Alpena Glass’s inventory is …- to …-inch in 4-by-8-foot sheets. Nearly 25% of his sales included installation, with the remainder direct product to the customer.

Beginning this past spring, Alpena Glass served Northeast Michigan retailers, financial institutions, health providers, government agencies, and numerous others seeking a protective barrier during the pandemic.

“Larger and significant sales were to health providers, grocers, and the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center,” he said.

Based in Kalamazoo is Total Plastics International, which is an acrylic glass distributor serving the Midwest, Southeast and Eastern seaboard. The company’s president, Tom Garrett, commented that acrylic glass is primarily manufactured in the United States, Mexico, and across Asia.

He added that, since COVID-19 arrived, Total’s acrylic glass sales increased three times over the norm.

According to a July 2020 National Public Radio news report, acrylic glass sales are projected to continue soaring well into 2021.

Jeffrey D. Brasie is a retired health care CEO and frequently writes feature stories and op-eds. He is a former Alpena resident and resides in suburban Detroit.


Guidelines for residential and commercial sanitizing


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers a detailed website and multi-page document entitled Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Facility. Visit cdc.gov.


When receiving shipments to your door, when not at home, it is suggested you ask your neighbors to secure your packages. In addition, the major carriers of the U.S. Postal Services, United Parcel Service, and FedEx offer online services which inform you of most expected deliveries.

You may consider opening your package outside. If you open inside, place on a counter or similar area, which you can immediately sanitize. Promptly wash your hands and recycle all packaging materials.


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