By Scott Suder

Today, more than ever, Wisconsin’s papermaking and converting industries are making products essential to our way of life here and around the world.

This has never been more evident than during these past few months as we have navigated the unprecedented and unsteady path created by the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. Paper product manufacturing has been deemed an “essential business” by both the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and by Gov. Tony Evers in his “Safer at Home” executive order.  This designation allows our paper mills and converting operations to continue producing medical and personal hygiene products that are critical to keeping Wisconsin families safe and healthy.

Paper products help patients affected by COVID-19, as well as the medical professionals who treat them. They’re needed by children and adults who use diapers, and households that use tissues, wipes and other materials. Our paper products are required to facilitate important communications across the country through essential government organizations such as the U.S. Postal Service, as well as financial institutions and other essential businesses.

Papermakers and converters are manufacturing products we all rely upon. Those industries are adequately managing paper supplies to support customers throughout the nation. Paper mill manufacturing and logistical teams are working “24/7” to ensure that supply chain, manufacturing, transportation and technology workstreams can operate at peak capacity to meet the rising demand from the medical community and families sheltering in place.

Many of our specialty paper products are integral to the food industry, including the serving, processing and packaging of a variety of food items. There are thousands of specialty paper products used for personal hygiene; medical protective equipment and supplies; food packaging and processing; pressure sensitive liners; pharmaceutical supplies; high-tech manufacturing; clothing and communications.

Those are just a few of which are manufactured from renewable and sustainable resources right here in Wisconsin, the nation’s leading paper-making state. Here is a sample list of essential consumer and medical products produced by Wisconsin’s paper and converting industries:

  • Medical personal protective equipment, including base papers and support materials to produce face masks and gowns
  • Patient gowns, lab coats, scrubs, operating room caps and EMT items
  • Disposable bags, sterilizer bags, SWABS and infection control products
  • Disposable cleaning wipes and antibacterial wet wipes used for hand and surface cleansing
  • Packaging for medication and medical instruments
  • Liners used in medical applications
  • Tissue papers, toilet papers, napkins, adult briefs
  • Medical tapes used to keep IVs in place
  • Carryout bags used in fast food facilities
  • Food packaging products
  • Sterile packaging solutions and packaging fill

Above all, our industry considers the health and safety of our more than 30,000 employees and their families of our top priority. That’s why all Wisconsin Paper Council member companies have implemented COVID-19 health, safety and operational plans to support their employees, visitors and customers during this unprecedented time. The health and safety of our people is truly job one.

Many papermakers are also stepping up to help vulnerable families and communities in their times of need. Throughout Wisconsin and across the nation, papermakers are donating much-needed supplies of medical and personal hygiene products to medical facilities, food pantries, homeless shelters, at-risk children and to our brave military men and women who have been called up to fight this deadly disease.

People in the papermaking industry know we are all in this together. That’s why our dedicated employees are working around the clock to ensure Wisconsin has the essential medical and consumer products it needs to keep our families safe and healthy.

Suder is president of the Wisconsin Paper Council. Learn more at