Monday 30 November 2009

European Bioplastics Conference – Berlin Nov. 2009


This was the fourth annual conference on EU Bioplastics organised by the European Bioplastics Association.   This year the EBA expected numbers to be down on last year, anticipating no more than 250 delegates.  380 had turned up, the result being an excellent meeting but for shortages of conference materials and overcrowding in the exhibition area.  90 companies from 33 countries were represented, 22% being from outside Europe.  No hardcopy or CD of the presentations was available at the time of writing.

Keynote Speech- The Biopolymer Value Chain

Dr Alexander Schwarz of McKinsey & Co said biopolymers offered strong environmental advantages and used as an example polyethylene produced from sugar via ethanol in Brazil.  This process emits a net 0.1 tonne of CO2per tonne of PE compared with 12 tonnes for PE made from coal in China, 2.1 tonnes from naphtha in China, 1.2 tonnes from naphtha in the USA and 0.8 tonnes from natural gas in the Middle East.  Routes to PE from fossil fuels can be expected to become more costly due to GHG regulations and taxes, but in the meantime, some consumers appear to be willing to pay more for biopolymers.  A September 2007 McKinsey survey of 7751 consumers around the World showed.....

Wednesday 4 November 2009

Insight – Memphis 12-15th October 2009

Keynote: European View

Kris Malowaniec of Paul Hartmann AG (Germany) opened on an optimistic note – for the medical disposables industry at least – by observing that in Europe, the threat of a pandemic was leading to a boom for masks, barrier fabrics and disinfecting wipes. Personal and occupational hygiene standards had tightened and could be expected to remain at an elevated level after the immediate pandemic concerns subside. Demographics (e.g. population ageing) also favoured increased use of disposables in future, and the recession-induced moves to cheaper private label products was coming to an end.
Between 1997 and 2007, spunmelt production increased by a factor of 3.5, especially in the emerging regions. Fabric quality improved dramatically giving better processability and performance in use. Production efficiencies had increased and the environmental impacts had been reduced by the move to ever-lighter fabrics and absorbent products.
Diaper design changes such as textile-like backsheets had driven much of the volume growth, but some problems were now emerging:

  • How much lighter could products get?
  • Overcapacity was evident: high growth expectations among the producers had not been co-ordinated with the converters.
  • Sustainability requirements were by definition hard to meet with disposables.
  • Innovation was limited and there were fewer pioneers with radical new products.
  • Commoditization continued, supported by standardisation of production technology.
  • Raw material, energy and converting costs were increasing.
  • Return on increasingly high capital requirement was limited.
Compared with NAFTA's 5 nonwoven producers, the EU had 21 and some consolidation was likely longer-term.
Asked about the EU demand for sustainability...