Dart container

In this file photo, a Dart Container employee checks a line of foam trays.

Dart Container, facing falling demand for its products due to COVID-19, last week furloughed about 500 employees at its Leola and Lancaster complexes, a company spokeswoman confirmed Monday.

Dart CEO Jim Lammers explained how the pandemic has affected sales at the manufacturer of food and beverage packaging, including foam cups and foam hinged trays.

“Demand for our products has dropped since many of our customers are the restaurants, airlines, sporting arenas, foodservice distributors, coffee chains and schools being hardest hit by countrywide stay-at-home mandates and social distancing requirements,” he said in a statement.

The Dart spokeswoman declined to quantify the decline in sales.

The local furloughs are among 1,400 company-wide for Dart, based in Mason, Michigan. The action here leaves about 1,000 workers on the job, the spokeswoman said.

But as a life-sustaining business, Dart will continue to operate all of its locations, albeit with smaller workforces.

Dart estimated that the furloughs will last four to eight weeks, then the workers will be recalled, assuming demand recovers. In the meantime, Dart will pay both the company and employee share of the idled employees' health insurance premiums, maintaining their medical, dental and vision coverage.

COVID-19 has entered Dart's local sites.

Ten employees at its Leola location and one at its Lancaster plant tested positive for COVID-19, the company confirmed April 13.

The company said it was notified of its first case April 5, and those who tested positive were quarantined at home and would be cleared to return to work based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, which includes providing a doctor’s note.

Besides foam cups and foam trays, the Leola plant on Route 23 also makes cup lids,  foam bowls, clear-plastic hinged trays (for salad), condiment cups and cutlery. The Lancaster site on Pitney Road, formerly the Playskool factory, also makes foam cups.

Dart came to Lancaster County in 1964 by opening a small plant to make foam cups. It opened its doors with 20 employees, according to LNP | LancasterOnline files.

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