China's commitment to sustainability is set to spur growth in use of bioresins and biofibres
The use of bioresins and biofibres will become increasingly important in China's nonwovens industry in the next few years if the Chinese government's commitments to more sustainable manufacturing and product biodegradability are to be met, according to a report in the latest issue of Technical Textile Markets from the business information company Textiles Intelligence.
The need for more bioresins and biofibres is being driven partly by a sharp increase in penetration of disposable absorbent hygiene products made from spunmelt nonwovens in China as GDP per head and household incomes in the country increase.
Such products include diapers, feminine hygiene products, adult incontinence products and medical items. In the case of diapers, penetration is now approaching the 50% mark and yet diapers were almost unheard of in China in 1995. In the case of feminine hygiene products penetration now exceeds 90% from around 30% in 1985.
However, a consequence of the sharp rise in usage of disposable absorbent hygiene products is that problems of waste disposal are getting more acute as China lacks the incineration facilities and recycling infrastructure found in the more advanced economies.
In parallel with the growth in usage of diapers and feminine hygiene products, spunmelt production in China climbed from virtually zero in 1995 to a figure approaching 2 million tons in 2013.
In the case of disposable medical nonwoven products -- such as drapes, gowns, wipes and wound care -- penetration in China is still only around 5% but significant growth is expected over the next few years.
Bioresins and biofibres can be produced from PLA (polylactic acid). PLA can, in turn, be derived commercially from agricultural products, which represent a renewable resource.
Bioresins and biofibres produced from PLA can also be made to be biodegradable and compostable. However, biodegradability is only one property among many others and may not necessarily be required. Performance will be key, and biodegradable polymers will be used only where, on balance, they represent the most attractive option in terms of performance and cost.
Also, the choice as to whether to use renewable resources or make products which are compostable, or both, depends on whether these properties are demanded by the brand -- although it is possible that such characteristics may be incorporated merely for use as a promotional tool in marketing.
"Editorial: China's nonwovens companies seek to steal the lead in sustainability" was published by the global business information company Textiles Intelligence in issue No 97 of Technical Textile Markets.
Other reports published in the same issue include: "Product developments and innovations"; "The UK technical textile industry: part 1 -- five larger producers and UK operations of foreign companies"; "Antimicrobial fibres, fabrics and apparel: innovative weapons against infection"; "Global technical textiles business update"; and "Statistics: trends in global and regional man-made fibre production". Technical Textile Markets is published quarterly by Textiles Intelligence. Each issue provides an independent and worldwide perspective on the global technical textiles industry.
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