Nonwovens makers will have to switch to
renewable or recycled materials
A significant share of the world's nonwovens production will
be made from 100% renewable or recycled materials by 2020,
according to a report in Issue No 82 of Technical Textile
Markets. This prediction is based on a commitment by Procter &
Gamble (P&G) to make its products more sustainable by using 100%
renewable or recycled materials for all its products - which
include diapers and other disposable hygiene items. Admittedly,
the commitment is a long-term one. But as a first step, P&G aims
to achieve 25% of this ambitious target within just ten years.
P&G also intends to eliminate all waste going to landfills --
and to pass this goal along its supply chains.
80% of the nonwovens used in disposable products for the hygiene
market are based on polypropylene, and are produced on spunmelt
machines incorporating configurations of spunbond and meltblown
extrusion beams. But according to the secretary general of
European Bioplastics, Harold Kaeb, polypropylene will be widely
replaced by bioplastics in nonwovens and films for hygienic
disposables. In fact Mr Kaeb has predicted that bio-based
products have the potential to replace 90% of all polymers
derived from petrochemical sources -- which implies a huge
potential market, amounting to around 205 million tons a year.
The main problem in using bioplastics is that existing capacity
is a drop in the ocean compared with potential demand.
At present, worldwide biodegradable bioplastics capacity is a
mere 300,000 tons a year. This represents a fraction of the 230
million tons a year of regular petrochemical-based polymer
currently being produced. The use of bioplastics alone,
therefore, will not be nearly enough to satisfy the demand for
polymers and fibres for the hygiene product market - despite
plans for capacity expansion by many producers. Consequently, as
well as biopolymers, cellulosic fibres are poised to benefit
significantly from initiatives such as P&G's 2020 vision.
A key to the potential success of cellulosics in nonwovens
for disposable hygiene products will be a new spunmelt nonwoven
technology called TencelWeb, as long as the technology can be
perfected. TencelWeb allows nonwoven webs to be made directly
from lyocell spinning solution, rather than from polymers
derived from petrochemicals such as polypropylene and
If perfected, the technology could be used extensively for
making lyocell nonwovens on existing spunmelt systems which use
synthetic polymers.If P&G's ambitions are to be fulfilled, other
technological breakthroughs will be needed. However, P&G's
decision will provide developers with the confidence that the
fruits of their efforts will be rewarded.