Interview with Wolfgang Plasser

Wolfgang Plasser
Wolfgang Plasser
Vice President-Global Business Management Nonwovens
TT: How do you foresee the outlook of nonwovens industry worldwide in 2023?

It altogether depends on which survey you are looking into. In rough figures 100-105 million tonnes of fibres are used in the textiles and the nonwovens markets, out of which about two-thjird is synthetics, One-fourth is cotton, and the rest is cellulosic and other natural fibres. From application perspective 90 percent of fibres are used in textile and 10 percent in nonwovens. Lenzing's volumes are 70 percent in textile and 30 percent in nonwovens. As a consequence, Lenzing's market share in nonwovens is higher than in textiles.

TT: Is this figure going to increase in nonwovens in future at Lenzing?

We think the 70-30 balance is a healthy one for Lenzing now. Both the industries (textiles & nonwovens) have different cycles. In general, the textile industry is more volatile where nonwovens are more stable. When you go deep into trading patterns, sometimes you see monthly or even weekly offers and orders in the textile field. Where as in the nonwovens field we usually go for quarterly contracts. For some products in the hygiene and the technical textile sectors in developed markets like Japan, we also have yearly contracts. This makes a big difference.

TT: What is the market size for disposable nonwoven products?

Several different market surveys tell us, from the 10 million tonnes for nonwovens we spoke of earlier, 50 percent are durable nonwovens and 50 percent are disposable nonwoven products. Durable nonwovens include all items for technical applications such as filtration while disposables include products for hygiene and wipes applications. We at Lenzing, are mostly involved in the disposable nonwovens industry. Since our products are 100 percent biodegradable, which is the opposite of durable nonwovens we are only in the disposable nonwoven segment. We cannot offer too much claims in the durable part.

TT: Where are the applications of disposable nonwovens increasing?

If you dig into detail it is very different for different regions. In the western world in the hygiene sector the markets for diaper are quite saturated. All this can be better explained by understanding the population structure.  In the developed economies of Europe, Japan, and the US, the elderly population is growing and that of newborns is dropping. In these regions we clearly see the switch from baby products to adult products. These countries have moved from diapers to adult incontinence products. In the developing countries especially in the largely populated countries of Asia, there is still heavy growth in hygiene products such as diapers, baby wipes, and the likes. China is strong market since the use of the products is increasing due to high per capita incomes. There is still some growth even though low in Japan, Taiwan, and Korea. The rate of penetration of these products is still low in Indonesia and India mainly due to low incomes and unaffordability of hygiene products. Although we see a double-digit growth but from a very low rate. 

When it comes to cleaning and beauty products, the picture is totally different. The growth in use of nonwovens in beauty and cosmetic products is high in the US, Europe, and Japan, since consumers are willing to make high investments in such products. Facial/sheet masks are very popular in Asia, but we are also seeing increasing growth in Europe and the US. Facial masks are substituting cream and lotions in a big way. The same goes for cosmetic wipes or the de-makeup wipes. Due to convenience consumers are moving to ready-to-use cosmetic products and wipes. We see double digit growth in this sector.

TT: Which are your major markets for Veocel?

Veocel is a new brand from Lenzing Group for all nonwoven applications. Like mentioned above the US, Europe, Japan, and China are our major markets. The nonwovens business is very different from the textile one. If you buy a wipe or a sheet mask in China, it is highly possible it is made in China.

TT: What new fibres are you working on at Lenzing?

Lenzing launched its new specialty brand - Veocel for the nonwoven industry in June 2018.  Veocel branded fibres are certified clean and safe, biodegradable, from botanic origin, and produced in an environmentally responsible production process. Applications of Veocel are categorized under branded offers beauty, body, intimate and surface.

We also launched Veocel Lyocell Fibre with Quat Release Technology in June 2018. It is a premium and specialty wood-based cellulose fibre used in hard surface cleaning and disinfectant wet wipes.

In September 2018, Lenzing announced it has successfully pioneered a new technology platform, Lenzing Web Technology, with a focus on sustainable nonwoven products that will open up new market opportunities for the industry.

Eco-responsible Technology for flushable wipes were introduced In October 2018. Lenzing's new Veocel Lyocell fibre with Eco Disperse technology designed for use in flushable wipes. Nonwoven fabrics with 20 per cent of the new Veocel Lyocell fibres and 80 per cent of wood pulp could reach >90 per cent disintegration within 30 minutes, faster than the passing INDA/EDANA benchmark.

Next year we have a very exciting and new project in the pipeline which I cannot speak of right now. 

TT: What kind of environmental impact do completely flushable nonwovens have compared to the conventional ones?

There are clear regulations concerning this in the US and the EU at least. You need to pass a series of seven tests to reach flushability level and to be able to claim that your product is flushable. These groups of tests were launch by INDA and EDANA together in the US and Europe under what is referred to as - GD4. This gives a guideline to players in the flushable nonwovens market. The application requires to meet two targets. One is to be able to do the cleaning job and the other is to disintegrate completely while flushed without blocking the sewage systems. This was a tricky thing and took us a while to develop such a product. The fibres used here, also called shortcuts, are much shorter than the usual. The usual fibres are 40 mm long while shortcuts are 10 mm or shorter. According to the GD4 guideline flushable nonwovens require to use 100 per cent biodegradable fibres. (HO)

Published on: 12/12/2018

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