The European nonwovens industry is among the most sustainable in Europe today: pioneers in environmental management, providers of essential everyday products to society and important contributors to Europe’s economic wealth and competitivity.
The industry endeavours to use natural resources in an efficient way, minimise environmental impact and meet society’s need for sustainable consumption.
Today’s global drive for increased sustainable development is reflected in EDANA’s mission: ‘to create an environment beneficial to sustainable and profitable growth of the industry participants through the active promotion of sustainable development, consumer interests and transparency’.
Our dynamic and fast-growing industry contributes significantly to the European economy and competitiveness. We are committed to improving the life of millions of people by providing superior and innovative products while continuously striving for improvements in the sustainability profile of our products.
Nonwovens Report International editor Adrian Wilson quizzed EDANA’s general manager Pierre Wiertz on the latest findings of the 2007 Sustainability Report and their significance for the industry. Please click here to view the article
Pioneers in environmental and sustainability management
Member companies grouped within EDANA have, for many years, been at the forefront of industry environmental management, for example, with the publication of Environmental Guidelines in the early 1990s, even before the introduction of Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS).
We have also established a tradition of voluntary industry cooperation and codes of practice in various areas such as product safety and in recent years, have demonstrated ongoing environmental awareness, with the investment of time and resources in three Life Cycles Analyses (LCA).
As a result of this early environmental awareness, and as a consequence of huge innovative efforts of this industry, the environmental impact of diapers and incontinence products has been dramatically reduced over the past two decades, as illustrated by the 2011, 2007-2008 and 2005 Sustainability Reports
on Absorbent Hygiene Products.
Sustainability and Absorbent Hygiene Products
The absorbent hygiene products industry in Europe is committed to the concept of sustainability and works hard to make a positive contribution to all aspects of sustainability, be they social, environmental or economic. Since we began reporting on our sustainability performance as an industry in 2005 we have shown measurable improvements.
Our 2007-2008 Sustainability Report on AHPs published in October 2007, and welcomed by the EC Enterprise and Industry Directorate-General, documents these improvements in detail. We are committed to continuing this improvement in environmental performance in all aspects of our operations.
For our industry to be sustainable we believe we must:
1. Offer products which provide real benefits and solutions for individuals and for society more broadly;
The Social Aspects of the Sustainability of Absorbent Hygiene Products
Our products provide real benefits to millions of people every day. They have an established safety profile and can therefore be used with absolute confidence to:
2. Minimise the environmental impact of our manufacturing, distribution and administrative activities;
The Environment Aspects of the Sustainability of Absorbent Hygiene Products
- enhance the quality of life of babies, parents, women, disabled people, older people and their carers;
- provide health and hygiene benefits such as drier skin, less diaper rash, reduced spread of infection and odour control;
- provide increased comfort and discretion;
- increase independence, freedom of movement and dignity for their users.
Our environmental impact is relatively small:
- less than 1 percent of all commercial wood production ends up as wood pulp in absorbent hygiene products;
- the global warming and non-renewable resource depletion impacts generated by one child using diapers for two and half years are estimated to be equivalent to those generated by driving one car between 2000 and 3500 kilometres;
- we contribute less than 0.5 percent of all solid waste and around 2 percent of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) compared with paper and board, garden waste and food waste which each comprise between 18 and 20 percent of MSW.
Nevertheless we take our responsibilities to reduce our environmental impact very seriously. We use life cycle assessment techniques to assess the environmental impact of our products and processes so that actions can be taken to improve environmental performance at all stages of the product process. As a result:
- the average weight of a baby diaper has been reduced by over 40 percent since 1987;
- the weight of packaging has been reduced by 41 percent;
- there has been a 32 percent decrease in the total energy impact of using diapers over the diapering period of one child between 1987 and 2005;
- the global warming and summer smog impacts of diapers have been reduced by 37 and 43 percent respectively over the same time period.
Similar positive trends have been shown for incontinence and feminine care products. In addition to our own LCA activities; we work with regulatory authorities to ensure that environmental standards are rigorous and meaningful, we measure our performance against external standards and we work with others to help find new and innovative solutions to reducing waste in the community.
3. Operate responsibly and successfully offering employment, generating innovation, building partnerships and creating and preserving long-term positive relationships with all of our stakeholders.
The Economic Aspects of the Sustainability of Absorbent Hygiene Products
The absorbent hygiene products manufacturers represented by EDANA make an important economic and social contribution to Europe by:
- employing over 100,000 people, some 20,000 of which are directly employed in the development, production and distribution of absorbent hygiene products;
- generating a similar level of employment upstream within raw materials supplier industries, not to mention those employed downstream in logistics and commercial operations;
- creating a network of suppliers and business partners researching and developing specialist equipment and materials which in turn contributes to Europe’s research capabilities and base of practical know-how;
- investing in over 50 manufacturing and development facilities in some 20 countries in the region;
- investing in new technology and infrastructure in the newly emerging economies of central and eastern Europe;
- generating revenues of over ten billion euros each year.
Sustainability and Nonwoven Products
The nonwovens industry brings a wealth of advantages to people throughout the world, in diverse walks of life.
Diapers, incontinence products and feminine hygiene products are appreciated by millions of people as part of daily life.
Nonwoven surgical gowns and drapes help prevent infection in the operating theatre, while state-of-the-art short-use protective suits and masks protect against hazardous dusts and chemicals.
Thanks to nonwoven filtration media, we can also enjoy improved indoor air quality, and with absorbent nonwoven oil spillage products and geotextiles we see the enormous environmental benefits of this versatile fabric.
Sustainability throughout the supply chain
The vertical character of the association, also encompassing many suppliers upstream of nonwovens converting and production operations, provides ample opportunities of dialogue with raw material suppliers.
As an example, several events organised by EDANA in the recent years have allowed industry participants to exchange experience and knowledge about new and alternative raw materials.
As and when such materials become available in significant quantities, and their performance and sustainability have been thoroughly assessed, the industry will be in a position to assess their potential to be used satisfactorily in nonwovens and related products.
EDANA's Sustainability Initiatives
Member companies grouped within EDANA for many years, have been and continue to be, at the forefront of industry sustainability and environmental management. EDANA invests time and resources in many elements of its sustainability programme, including
- Publication of Sustainability Reports on Absorbent Hygiene Products in 2015, 2011, 2007 and 2005
- Several Life Cycle Analyses (LCA) on baby diapers, incontinence products and wipes
- Dedicated industry resources and expertise, for example the Sustainability WG
- A soon to be launched sustainability screening study throughout the nonwovens supply chain
- Increasing knowledge on Sustainability at EDANA conferences, with dedicated sessions on our industry's pratices, progress and challenges.
2014-2015 : Sustainability Report
EDANA Sustainability Report_2014 2015
2011 : Sustainability Report
Full Report (PDF 5.88 MB) 2011 EU acknowledgment letter commending industry's sustainability initiative
2007-2008 : Sustainability Report: Absorbent Hygiene Products
Full Report (PDF 4.11 MB)
Executive Summary (PDF 1.08 MB)
Translated versions of the Executive Summary (English version is the official one) :
2007 EU acknowledgment letter commenting industry's sustainability initiatives (PDF 68 KB)
2005 : Sustainability Report: Baby Diapers and Incontinence Products
Full Report (PDF 876 KB)
Executive Summary (PDF 262 KB)
Translated versions of the Executive Summary (English version is the official one) :
French German Italian Dutch
2005 EU acknowledgment letter commending industry's sustainability initiatives (PDF 208 KB)
LCA for baby wipes EDANA completed a Lifecycle Assessment (LCA)
comparing baby wipes, washcloth and cotton balls, which shows that a single-use product has no more impact on the environment than a reusable product. The study, commissioned by the main producers of baby wipes, shows a different environmental impact of baby wipes versus other cleaning methods, with no superiority on wash cloths and favourable results on the majority of indicators for the use of wipes vs. cotton balls.