The majority of our nonwoven supply has now shifted to regional with a strong trend of further reduction of trans-Atlantic shipments. The merger was a key enabler to transfer technologies between the US and the Czech Republic sites and allowed us to localise supply. The global transportation issues actually ended up accelerating our plans to achieve this reshuffling of the portfolio and be better positioned to compete on a regional basis.
Birth rates in North America and Western Europe are indeed flat at best with the risk of a downward trend. The increased technical performance of nonwoven materials also has led to better quality diapers, and this may gradually reduced consumption. However, some of the emerging diaper designs require different kinds of nonwovens and this may offset part of the decline. While the acceptance of adult incontinence products is growing, this is not yet at a rate that it can fully compensate for a decline in baby diaper demand. There was an expectation that aging baby boomers would drive broader acceptance of adult incontinence products, as this generation has a strong drive to stay active and continue to live their normal life. It remains to be seen if that will play out, but that could quickly lead to more growth in hygiene nonwovens.
There certainly will be more than one solution, and technologies are emerging based on (i) bio-sourced polymers, based on (iii) recycled polypropylene, polyethylene or polyester and there are even (iii) some biodegradable options on the horizon. In the next 5 years significant growth is expected for bio-sourced nonwoven fabrics that use BioPE, BioPP, PLA and/or PHA. In parallel, there have been significant advancements in recycling of various polymers, and with increasing scale the economics of this approach will lead to broader adoption. There are significant efforts by the resin producers to use either physical or chemical recycling methods to produce resin grades that can be marketed as mass-balanced recycled resins, and once the pricing of these resins becomes more competitive, the market can adopt quickly to implement this approach. Of course, most nonwoven producers have recycled most of their waste for years already. Finally, higher performance fabrics or different product forms can reduce the consumption rate of the final product, and thereby reduce waste. The nonwovens that enable this will be a key part of these product design changes. It will be no surprise that we have programmes at PFN in all these areas.
We have made significant progress in this area. We are already recycling all of our plastic nonwoven waste that can safely be recycled back into our production process without quality issues or production losses. Most of our products contain up to 10 percent of recycled resin, while we have a few specialty products with significantly higher amounts of recycled material.
PFN will continue to drive innovation with a greater emphasis of products that improve our sustainability footprint. We have a strong pipeline with new spinning technologies and formulations that will allow us to continue to operate at the cutting edge of nonwoven development. Our expansion plans will therefore continue to allow us to meet our mission to provide nonwoven products that provide the highest level of wellness, protection in a more sustainable manner.
DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of technicaltextile.net.