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Fibers & Textiles

Bioplastics in the Nonwoven Industry Possibility or pipe dream By Dave Rousse President INDA Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry

shutterstock / Steve Heap

Cary, North Carolina, USA

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he Nonwovens industry is a large and growing user of oil-based polymers. So it is a natural place to examine if bioplastics could replace these oil-based resins. Is it a possibility or is it a pipe dream? Before this first question will be addressed, this article tries to help to have a better understanding of what nonwovens are. Nonwovens are engineered fabrics that are used in numerous end products we interact with every day. A Nonwoven Fabric is defined as a sheet of fibers or continuous filament bonded together chemically, mechanically or thermally. Nonwovens are not paper, woven fabrics or knitted fabrics. They are largely made from the oil based plastics polypropylene, polyester (PET) and to a lesser extent polyethylene. Almost all of the parts of a baby diaper are made from nonwoven fabrics. Nonwovens are used in wipe products such as moist toilet wipes, baby wipes and other personal care wipes. In addition to personal care, the ever expanding category of wipes also includes household wipes and industrial/institutional application wipers. All feminine care products and incontinence products contain nonwoven fabrics as well. The media in air and liquid filter products from tea bags to industrial dust collection systems are usually nonwoven fabrics, not to mention in the 25 or so filter types in an automobile. Many of the items in doctor or hospital visits are made of nonwovens fabrics, such as surgical gowns, operating room drapes, sterilization wraps and wound care products, in addition to other disposable protective apparel for emergency response, chemical handling, hazardous waste protection and agriculture. Though nonwovens are prevalent in disposable products like those mentioned here, nonwovens can also be found in more durable or long life products. Examples of such products are geotextiles, upholstered furnishings, roofing reinforcements, house wrap, carpet components/backing, and automotive upholstery, liners and insulation. In short, nonwovens have thousands of uses and are growing every day with entirely new uses being developed. The Nonwoven industry is a global, growing industry. In 2012, global nonwoven fabric sales reached $28.2 billion and grew at a 6% annual rate from 2007-2012. Global sales are estimated to reach $39.2 billion by 2017; an annual growth rate of 6.8%. So what is the opportunity to replace commonly used oil-based resins in nonwovens with biobased polymers? The table shows that the potential for bioplastics is promising for different areas, ranked on a five star basis, with five being the highest. These are: Absorbent Hygiene Product Components; Consumer Wipes; Medical/Surgical Products; Reusable Shopping Bags; Automotive Components/Engineered Structures and Agricultural/ Landscaping Fabrics.

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bioplastics MAGAZINE [05/13] Vol. 8

Profile for bioplastics MAGAZINE

bioplastics MAGAZINE 05/2013  

bioplastics MAGAZINE is the only independent trade magazine worldwide dedicated to bioplastics (i.e. plastics made from renewable resources...

bioplastics MAGAZINE 05/2013  

bioplastics MAGAZINE is the only independent trade magazine worldwide dedicated to bioplastics (i.e. plastics made from renewable resources...

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