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EDANA General Manager presents global nonwovens industry’s successes, challenges, and perspectives to Indian industry leaders

Concensus with panelists on considerable growth potential for India’s domestic nonwovens market

Speaking in Mumbai at the 2014 Techtextil Symposium held on October 16th and 17th, Pierre Wiertz, General Manager of EDANA, reminded the Indian industry leaders and supply chain representatives for both technical textiles and nonwovens attending the event that the global growth rate of the overall production of nonwovens has outpaced that of many other industries’ output since the beginning of the 21st Century or so (and well before already), but in doing that, it had more often been following rather than outpacing the global economic growth.

"This makes nonwovens one of the fastest growing fibre-consuming sectors, if not the fastest" remarked Wiertz " but nonwovens are not just textiles, as they can be made of many other materials such as cellulose, carbon or mineral fibres than what conventional classifications consider to be 'textile fibres'."

Comparing the stage of developments of the various continental bases of nonwovens production and consumption, Wiertz suggested that almost exactly as the earth’s population reached 7 billion people in 2011, the world annual average per capita consumption figure of nonwovens reached an impressive and unprecedented figure of 1kg (as global nonwovens output reached 7 million metric tons). Considering the current slow-down in nonwovens growth since then, it will however probably take to 2021 or longer to double this symbolic level. "Asia will see the fastest growth rates, but while China has already reached a remarkable level of over 1kg/capita - admittedly still less than half of the European level, India is lagging behind, with less than 0.3kg, or 300g per capita" continued Wiertz.

The panel of speakers presenting nonwovens developments in India agreed that the growth of the Indian nonwovens industry's output was poised to accelerate from the current level around 250,000 tons, but also, to shift in quality and end-uses.

Whilst a predominant share of the lower quality spunlaid nonwovens produced go to commodities such as low-end packaging items, new production capacities of nonwovens production coming on stream in the next few years would be primarily oriented towards the essential need of India’s huge population in hygiene, medical, mobility, filtration, construction and infrastructure.

Altogether, opportunities for the whole value chain, including the increasingly sophisticated machinery requirements, were emphasised, and the considerable local polymer and staple fibre production capacities may play a significant role in this development.

"Eventually, the whole question of how nonwovens and nonwoven-based products are perceived (or ignored) by individual citizens and consumers, but also by media, authorities and opinion leaders, is another subject of concern, which should -and does- prompt EDANA to act with and on behalf of its member companies." said Wiertz.

"More and better communication is required, in India like elsewhere, to convey the positive contribution of nonwovens to people’s lives and to society, but also to fight misperceptions and prejudices about their environmental impact."

In this respect, the first two product categories of EDANA’s major project “Life with Nonwovens”, which were released at the INDEX exhibition earlier this year - infographic posters on crop-covers and geotextiles illustrating the benefits of nonwoven solutions in agriculture and road construction compared to alternative solutions - appear to be elements of the answer required in a country like India. However, action towards authorities to emphasize the low impact and compatibility of single-use articles such as hygiene and medical nonwovens in modernized waste management systems will also be required.

“EDANA, concluded Wiertz, "is determined to support the development of the nonwovens industry in India by any suitable means”. As a result, he announced a major EDANA nonwovens conference in the first quarter of 2016, to cover market developments in all priority segments."

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