ORLANDO, Fla.—The NPE2021 show, the biggest plastics fair in North America, is canceling the in-person portion of the trade fair scheduled for May in Florida because of the coronavirus pandemic, the organizer said Jan. 5.
The Plastics Industry Association, which owns the fair, said in an email to exhibitors that it decided the event could not be held safely. The show, which is held every three years, had been scheduled for May 17-21 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.
"After extensive review, it has been determined that it is not possible to hold the planned event and also provide a safe environment at that time and location, and therefore we must cancel the in-person show," the association said. "While we are disappointed by the circumstances that led to this decision, we know that the plastics industry is strong and resilient."
The decision came amid increasing questions from exhibitors about the safety of the event.
In a long and strongly worded Dec. 17 letter to association leadership, equipment maker Novatec Inc., for example, said it was withdrawing from the show and urged the group to cancel it.
The company said it also makes medical equipment, including fever sensing equipment, and its research—and challenges vaccinating enough of the U.S. population—made it question the safety of the event.
"Although we have been told for some time by members of the NPE Committee that everything will be fine, it is now clear to us after much research and discussion with government and medical leaders that there is no way the majority of the population will have been vaccinated by the time of the show, which would make the show and its indoor ventilation system an ideal spot for a mass spread condition," CEO Conrad Bessemer wrote in the email, which he shared with Plastics News.
In his letter, Bessemer said Novatec had surveyed competitors and found "many, many others" did not intend to participate in the show.
In its Jan. 5 email to exhibitors, the plastics association said it had consulted with medical and legal exports, the board and NPE executive committee, as well as exhibitors and association members. It said its board of directors made the decision.
The announcement did not have other details about the fair but the association noted that plastics companies have retooled to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Tony Radoszewski, the president and CEO of the Washington-based plastics association, previously said that it was not possible to move the show to either a later date in Florida or another city, given the huge size of the event and the time needed for set-up and tear-down.
The fair typically draws about 50,000 attendees and fills the Orlando convention center. Radoszewski said only similarly sized centers in Chicago and Las Vegas are also capable of hosting the show.