Thursday 23 June 2011

World of Wipes, Atlanta: 14th-16th June 2011


This conference goes from strength to strength.  It was the 5th and it attracted 370 attendees, many on INDA’s innovative “networking only” rate which clearly adds to the numbers and improves networking prospects.  It is also attracting inventors keen to take a table-top to show off their ideas and grow their businesses.  The quality of presentations and information provided was excellent.

Global Wipes Market Update

Ian Bell of Euromonitor International (UK)  put FMCG value growth for 2006-11 at only 1-3% in the developed regions of the world, and 9-12% in the developing regions.  For wipes (excluding Away From Home products), the split was 85/15 of value sales between the developed/developing regions .  Globally the market for personal care and home care wipes now amounted to $9.25bn.  Overall like-for-like sales had grown by 2% but within this, Personal care had grown 5% while Home Care had declined by 2%. 
  • In Western Europe the Home Care decline had been particularly steep, falling from $1.2bn in 2005 to just below $0.9bn in 2010. 
  • All sectors, Household, Electrostatic, All-Purpose, Furniture,Toilet, and Floor showed a 5 year decline in this region. 
  • The US showed modest growth, while Australasia and Japan were stagnant. 
  • Personal Care in WE had grown from $1.9bn to $2.35bn
  • In the same period, in the USA PC wipes market grew from $1.3bn to $1.5bn while Australasia and Japan were static.
  • Per-capita spend on wipes however was highest in Japan and Australia ($10-$11), with the USA at $8.2 and WE at $6.6.  Surprisingly, the Japanese PC wipe sector now included a successful deodorant wipe for men. (“Gatsby Ice Type”)

For the period to 2015, global growth would be around 5% year on year: 12%  in the developing world and 3% in the developed world. 
  • Personal care wipes would grow at 3% CAGR
  • Home Care wipes would grow at 0.5% CAGR with most of this being in North America.
  • By 2015 the Developed/Undeveloped market value split would be at 80/20, and it would take until 2030 for it to reach 50/50.
  • Key emerging markets (presumably for wipes) were listed as Turkey and China (both 17.5% pa growth)  Brazil (16%) and Russia (11.5%)
Overall, wipes are not doing as well as they used to. The macroeconomic situation in the developed world coupled with the low penetration of the more rapidly growing emerging markets is to blame.
Asked what might improve matters, Mr Bell said that government sponsored infection control measures prompted by health scares such as H1N1 increased awareness of the benefits of cleanliness, to the benefit of the wipes sector. 
How did Euromonitor gather the data? By interviews with users, suppliers and raw materials producers in the countries where they had offices, and by monitoring the trade press.
Would sustainable wipes grow?  Yes but not at a premium – purchases by eco-warriors excepted (5% of the population).

North American Wipes Market Update

Rory Holmes, President of INDA, defined North America as Canada, the USA and Mexico
  • In 2010 wipes accounted for 18.5% of the 1.52 million tonne NA nonwoven market compared with 8.9% of the 0.7 million tonne market in 1995. 
  • NA consumption has quadrupled in 15 years, and in the same time the consumer wipes share has grown from 65% to 79% of the total wipes market, Industrial and Institutional being the remainder. 
  • Within consumer wipes, the baby wipes value share has fallen from 88% of the 1995 market to 29% of the 2010 market with Household growing from 4% to 45% and Personal Care growing from 8% to 26%. 
  • In 2010, 174,000 tonnes of consumer wipes worth $4bn were sold.   41% of the tonnage went into Household, 46% into Baby and 13% into Personal.  Compare this with the value percentage and the competitiveness of the Baby sector becomes clear.  46% of the tonnes yield 29% of the value:  the Baby market is now mature and static…
  • …and the volume share is dominated by Private Label (40%).  K-C have 26%, P&G 19% and small brands share the remainder.  However in value terms K-C leads with 34%, P&G has 27% and PL 26%
  • In 2010, P&G’s Swiffer (30%) led the electrostatic household wipes market with PL (20%) and small brands (16%) ahead of Pledge (7%).
  • Personal Care wipes include all-purpose, cosmetic, facial, moist-toilet, bath, antibacterial, toddler and fem-care.
  • A breakdown of 2010 “moist-toilet” tonnage shares showed K-C leading (45%) with PL second (26%), Playtex third (12%), P&G fourth (11%) and small brands at 7%.  On a value basis, the shares were 32%, 20%, 12%, 17% and 19% respectively.
  • Of the total 281,000 tonne total wipes market, spunlaced had 52%, air-laid pulp 24%,  Co-form and wet-laid 14%, thermal/latex bonded carded 5%, needled 3.5% and spunlaid 2%.
  • Food-service, industrial and institutional wipes sold $1.193bn in 2010, 38% to healthcare, 38% to industrial, 13% to speciality and  11% to foodservice.
  • With regard to flushability issues, the California bill is dead but not buried.  INDA continue to monitor this one.  New legislation against flushables is being proposed for Maine and New Jersey, and INDA have a seat at the table.
  • After 27 years of INDA lobbying, the  competition between laundered shop-towels and disposable nonwovens is about to become fair.  From June 2012 a new EPA ruling will mean that nonwovens will not automatically have to be disposed of as hazardous waste a rule which doubled their cost of use.
Asked what the next big thing in nonwovens would be, Dr Holmes expected rapid growth in industrial/hospital wipes to follow the new EPA ruling.  He also believed that stabilsied high-loft nonwovens would begin to grow at the expense of PU foam in upholstery.  Was there any real need for flushable products?  10 experts had reviewed the INDA guidelines and all were in favour of flushables, one advocating stopping the disposal of any faecal matter in landfill to improve public health.  The flushing of paper towels from toilets was the major problem at sewage farm screens.

South American Wipes

Rick Jezzi (Consultant) defined Latin America as, South and Central America (including Mexico) and the Caribbean and arrived at a population of 585 million in 2010.  Of South America’s 395 million people, half were Brazilian and here the population was falling by 1% per year as religious influence diminished (more birth control) and women entered the workforce.  Brazil accounted for 61% of SA’s 2010 GDP and would have a PPP/capita of $12,500 by 2015.  Argentina was the richest in the region with a PPP/Capita projected to be $17,500 by 2015.  This compared with NA/WE/Japan earnings of $30-46,000 per capita.
  • Diapers in the region showed a 4-5% CAGR to 2015 and were provided by many players, the top three having 33, 25, and 16% shares.  Penetration (43%) should reach 50% by 2015
  • Fem care and pantyliners were projected to show similar growth, and here 4 players shared over 90% of the market.  Penetration (65%) should reach 77% by 2015)
  • Adult Incontinence was embryonic but growing at 6.5%/year with 97% of the market shared by the top four. Penetration (30%) should reach 37% by 2015.
  • Baby wipes used 7200 tonnes of nonwovens last year (60% being spunlace at ~40gsm) and was projected to grow to 8750 tonnes by 2015.  Penetration (~20%) should reach 26% by 2015.
    • 50% of diaper buyers also buy wipes. (Average pack size = 50 wipes)
    • K-C imports Coform from the US and UK at 48gsm and converts in Brazil and Columbia. (Multinationals share 70% of the market)
    • 20gsm thermal bonded card web and spunmelt accounts for 55-60% of the square metreage sold.
  • Personal care wipes have been growing at ~15%/year and will grow at 2xPPP growth to 2015.
  • Household wipes will be slow.  Its counter-cultural in the target demographic: “We have maids”.

Brazil is self sufficient in spunmelt (Providencia and Fitesa) and exports spunlace (3 production lines), but PGI controls the rest of SA.  There are no air-laid lines and this could be an opportunity.   Converted baby wipes are imported into Brazil for re-export into the region.  Brazil leads in bio-degradables with Braskem and Dow making polyethylene from ethanol, Solvay making PVC and industrial polyhydroxyalkanoates also being made.  Low-cost biofeedstock availability (e.g. sugar cane) is the key here.

Chinese Wipes Market

Minru Zhu, Honorary Chairman of China Nonwovens and Industrial Textiles Association reported on recent developments:
  • Total sales of nonwovens and technical textiles reached $57bn in 2010 and employed 700,000 people.
  • 2500 companies are selling over $700,000-worth of nonwovens and technical textiles, up from 1000 in 2000. (Over 100 companies with turnover over $100m)
  • 8.2 million tonnes of fibres consumed were consumed, the main shares being as follows.  Canvas and tarpaulin – 1.52m;  Basic synthetic leather – 0.71m;  Medical textiles - 0.70m; packaging textiles – 0.67m; Filtration and separation 0.56m; Agrotextiles – 0.52m;  Geotextiles – 0.40m.  Disposables were probably within the 0.31m Others category.
  • Nonwovens had grown from 2.4 million tonnes in 2009 to 2.8 million tonnes in 2010.  Here the breakdown was spunbond 1.32 million tonnes, needled 0.63 mt, latexbond 0.25 mt; spunlaced 0.23 mt; thermal bond 0.21 mt; air-laid  96,000 tonnes and melt blown 30,000 tonnes.
  • 93 companies make spunlaced using 160 lines, over 37 of which are imported.  16 new lines were built in 2010.  15 companies produce more than 5000tpa.
  • Spunlaced capacity in 2010 was 325kt, and production 232kt.  One province (ZheJiang) makes over half China’s spunlace.
  • China has over 800 spunmelt lines, 40 of which are SMS.
  • The 96,000 tonnes of Airlaid is mainly used in wipes and hygiene.

Sales of personal care wipes (includes baby?)  in China will grow from $158million in 2008 to $230million in 2013.  Other markets are negligible.  The baby wipes market comprising 80 million 0-4 year olds is 20% penetrated.  20-30 million babies are born every year.
“Wipes are disposable and add natural environmental stress”. “Choosing biodegradable easily types of fibre material will be the important trend for future wipes”
Asked about spunlaced line requirements over the next 5 years, Mr Zhu said they would install 40 more, of which 13-23 would be imported.

EU Wipes Market

Heidi Beatty, Director of Strategic Product Development, Nice Pak/PDI expected the EU wipes market to recover slowly.  France and Germany would be static through 2014, but the UK, Spain and Eastern EU would show modest growth.
  • The total market would grow from £2.2 bn (2009) to £2.5 bn (2014)…
  •  …but household wipes would decline from £0.76bn to £0.69bn. 
  • Baby wipes would be up from £1bn to £1.3bn
  • Facial would be up from £0.39bn to £0.49bn.
  • Eastern Europe would grow from €170mn to €260mn.
Health scares provide an opportunity for household wipes.  Dettol® antimicrobial wipes have seen sharply increased sales since Swine Flu in 2009.
The key challenge will be price increases with spunlace, up 23% in the last year; pulp up 6% and polymers 19%, but the increased regulatory pressures (REACH, Biocides Directive, Cosmetics Directive, and the Classification Labeling and Packaging regulations) will also prove challenging.
Using UK baby wipes to illustrate the points, the brands are winning back share by:
·         Driving down selling price throught increased use of multipacks (up to 12 packs per multipack),
·         Reducing the wipe count per pack, introducing “economy” versions and pushing X for Y promotions.  Brands now contain on average 20% fewer wipes per pack than  the equivalent in private label. 
·         The Pampers Simply range of economy wipes are now 25-45% cheaper than the main Pampers brand.

So, while the volumes increase in the UK, the returns are reducing, with the year on year baby wipes spend showing an average of 5%/year decline in each of the months from Feb 2010 to Feb 2011. 
In short the UK, which is Europe’s biggest wipe market, is driving-out  value, and the key question is will it be contagious!

Raw Materials Instability


David Adkins, Regional Director, Lenzing (USA) said Group sales reached a record €1.77bn last year, 90% of this coming from the cellulosic fibres viscose and Tencel.  The turnaround in cellulosic fibres fortunes has been dramatic.  After 30 years of stagnation (1970-2000) which coincided with the age of cheap petrochemicals, worldwide production of man-made cellulosic staple fibre has risen from 1.8 million tonnes to 3.1 million tonnes.   The majority of this growth is in China, both European and American production having continued the decline until 2006 and then stabilizing.  2010 staple capacity was 3.7 million tonnes, 60% of this being in China.  India, Indonesia and Europe have roughly 10% each; Taiwan and Thailand have 4% each.  Excluding Tencel, Nonwovens account for 450,000 tonnes of the demand and Textiles 2 million.
Now sustainability is growing in importance, and cotton demand (and availability) can be expected to increase despite the high prices.  China is the key to both man-made cellulosic staple via its dominance of both fibre and textile production and cotton supply.  Nevertheless Lenzing believe the “Cellulosic Gap” remaining when cotton production is maximized means the future for viscose and lyocell is assured.  They expect the total demand for all fibres to reach 140 million tonnes by 2030, when the “gap” could be as much as 20 million tonnes or double current cotton production.  Clearly the world will not be able to produce cotton in these quantities on land required for food crops.  Click Here for Tencel Development History


John Devine,  Economist, Cotton Inc said cotton price (150c/lb “today”) had fallen from a record of 210 c/lb in March and its volatility (the range of prices over a year) was at a record 140c/lb.  Since 2005/6 both cotton and corn price indices had doubled and oil (1996=100) had risen from ~280 to ~380 via a peak of ~450.  Since 1996 world population had risen by 20% and their percapita income had risen from $4980 to $6200, both factors increasing the demand for cotton.  Acreage planted was now increasing and a record harvest was expected for next year, allowing cotton stocks to rise for the first time in 6 years.  This year’s harvest might however be lower than recent predictions due to droughts in Texas and China.  For the first time in 15 years prices of clothing were increasing.  A graph of demand for cotton showed 2011/12 at 119 million bales, down from a peak of 124 million bales in 2006/7.
The Chinese and Indian governments are in the driving seat here.  They could act to stabilize cotton price and supply.

Feedstocks and Synthetics

Karen Jones, Service Leader, Fibres and Feedstocks CMAI (Now taken over by IHS) listed the strategic drivers in the petrochemicals supply chain:
  • Demand is growing rapidly in emerging markets, but capacity additions in the Middle East are slowing.
  • Investments in North America could now occur again.
  • Alternative production technologies and feedstocks could emerge.
  • Cost of gas has dropped dramatically relative to oil.
  •  Ethane cracking shifts steam cracker co-product yields.  (There’s no propylene side product from ethane cracking.)
  • “On-purpose” (propane dehydrogenation) propylene production becomes more important so…
  • …prices of PP will stay high for another 4 years at least and impact demand.
  • China installed another 3 million tonnes of PET capacity in 2010 and another 1.2m tonnes went in elsewhere.
  • PET prices are staying high though: demand to replace cotton in textiles will remain high.  It will however remain cheaper than PP.

Asked how much more polyester was used in textiles due to high cotton price in 2010, Ms Jones estimated 0.75m to 1m tonnes.

Market Pulp

Brad Kalil (Consultant, Ex Weyerhaeuser) reminded us that the fluff pulp market is not independent of paper grades because 70% of the US fluff capacity can make either paper or fluff grades depending on the economics.  Nevertheless fluff has grown by 6%/y (or 225,000 tonnes)  for the last 6 years, and will continue to grow at 4.7% through 2014 to reach 6 million tonnes.  New bleached eucalyptus kraft pulp coming on stream in 2014 will overwhelm demand so for the foreseeable future there will be adequate availability.  With regard to price, the single most important factor is the US Dollar exchange rate index, so if the dollar strengthens, pulp prices will fall.

Washington View

Jessica Franken of INDA listed the three main concerns as a) reforms to the Toxic substances control act (TSCA), b) developing antimicrobial resistance leading to bans on common antimicrobials and c) an FTC crackdown on “greenwash”.
TSCA is likely to develop into the US version of Europe’s REACH.  TSCA has enabled the EPA to regulate chemical substances, but since 1976, only 5 chemicals have been banned and only 200 of the 62,000 grandfathered chemicals have been tested.  It will now have to develop an inventory of 84,000 chemicals including grandfathered chemicals, and the burden of proof shifts from the EPA to the manufacturers.  So, instead of the EPA having to prove an unreasonable risk of a chemicals use, the manufacturer or processor will have to prove reasonable certainty of it causing no harm.  All manufacturers or processors of existing chemicals will have to submit a declaration of this within one year, and new chemicals will need to have a pre-market notification including the same minimum data set required for existing chemicals.  Clearly this a huge paradigm shift with massive testing and reporting obligations.
Two NGO’s are asking the EPA to ban Triclosan as an endocrine disruptor which causes reproductive problems and leads to antibacterial resistance.  The FDA is also reviewing its safety.
In October 2010 the FTC proposed revision of the “Green Guides” for the first time  since 1998.  The proposed changes will affect the marketing of products which claim bioegradability, eco-friendly, green, compostable, renewable, recyclable, carbon-neutral etc.  Any “green” claims will require real and prominently displayed information qualifying the claims.

Headwear Liners

Terry Zebouni, CEO Bandzorb LLC introduced the Bandzorb liner, an adhesive backed super-absorbent antimicrobial air-laid nonwoven to absorb perspiration from the forehead.  It sticks to the headband of the hat, cap or helmet and is available in 1”x12” (at $8.95 for a 6-pack) and 1 5/8”x14” sizes (at $9.95 for a 6-pack).  Ms Zebouni appears to be looking for partners to participate in the scaling up and  commercializing of the idea.  Asked if it could be reused she thought maybe 2 uses with drying in between would work.

Inner Wipes

Don Hatter (Inventor) introduced a plastic container which fits inside a toilet roll and carries 20 wet-tissues.  The idea is to have wet-tissues always available.  He is right at the start of the project and looking for support.

Kandoo Wipes

Richard Palmer CEO of Nehemiah Manufacturing Co. and ex P&G presented the successful Pampers Kandoo brand licencing story.  The company was formed in the Fall of 2009 “to build brands, create jobs and change lives” in the greater Cincinnati area.  Kandoo was the first licenced brand because within P&G it  lacked investment and focus and hence suffered declining sales. Nehemiah improved the substrate and emphasized flushability on the pack, changed the mix of SKU’s, and developed strong customer support via Facebook and Twitter.  They are now developing a range of Pampers Kandoo personal care products for toddlers:  shampoo, soap and sanitiser with playful packaging and fragrances that toddlers would love.
Asked for more details of the setting up of the new company, Mr Palmer said P&G had outsourced manufacturing and Nehemiah took over the supply chain.  They created 20 jobs in Cincinnati to pack the wipes.  They sell to major retailers using a hybrid Direct and Broker marketing model, and do a lot on-line.  Were they working with other companies?   Mr Palmer mentioned Lawn and Garden, where they had teamed up with the inventor of a new product. 

Instructional Packaging

Paul Taylor replaced Tara Millar to give the Atlantic Mills presentation on the use of QR (Quick Repsonse) bar codes on packaging.  Scanning the code with a smart phone connects you to an instructional video which either shows you how to use it or trains you how to sell it.  It is being used on wipes for institutional and food service to train users in correct cleaning procedures.

Water Wipes

Edward McCloskey, Chairman and CEO of Irish Breeze introduced a baby-wipe impregnated with pure water containing 0.1% of grapefruit extract as preservative.  He argued that today’s baby wipes used 100 times a week to apply lotions containing complex preservatives and other chemicals are too big an insult for baby’s tender skin.  The substrate is 100% hydroentangled viscose.  It is selling well in all supermarkets in Ireland, and in pharmacies in the UK.  On-line sales through Ocado are also strong.

Neutrogena Wave

David Gubernick, Research Fellow, J&J Consumer and Personal Products demonstrated the “Wave”, a vibrating exfoliator which uses a disposable impregnated felt pad to clean the skin.  The range of pads use 250-300gsm PET/Rayon/PP blend needlepunched fabrics to give different textured surface using the Di-lour system.  Other textures are added by spray or gravure dot printing.  The felt needs wetting before use and the vibrator can be used in the shower.

Alcohol Free Germicidal Wipes

Hudson Garrett, Director of Clinical Affairs and Training at Nice-Pak/PDI introduced San-Cloth® AF, the first and only alcohol  and fragrance free, quat-based disinfectant wipe with a 3 minute kill time.  It can be used without wearing gloves or protective clothing and is effective against 25 microorganisms  common in bathrooms kitchens and hospitals in 3 minutes.  This product won the WOW innovation award.

Paper Shower

James Bahcall, CEO, Paper Shower, uses his invention after cycling.  It is a pack of two wipes, one very wet and the other dry to allow a sponge down and dry off after a sweaty ride into work (for example).  While not much larger than a floor wipe they can be used on the whole body, presumably in the bathroom.  Both fabrics were hydroentangled.

PurCotton Industrial Wipes

Lizzie Zhao, Marketing Manager, Winner Industries (China) described their 100% unbleached cotton hydroentangled wipes.  The presence of the natural oils and waxes enables high speed carding and entanglement, and where necessary the rolls are scoured and or bleached in a kier afterwards.

Wipes Converting Machinery

Dave Kessenich, Product Development, PCMC, promoted their range of wipes machinery.

Microencapsulation for Wipes

Ted Goodwin, VP Business Development Encapsys described how the business grew out of the NCR paper business of Appleton Paper.  Microcapsules of ink were used in the No Carbon Required paper, and the same technology has since been used to encapsulate a variety of materials e.g fragrances such as those used by P&G for Downy.
Physical encapsulation coats a core material with polymer by spray-drying, fluidized bed coating or pan coating.  These coatings are relatively thick.  Chemical encapsulation involves creating a thin skin by interfacial polymerization in an emulsion or suspension of the core material.   They now ship over 30,000 tonnes of microcapsules to 4 continents and are exploring the possibilities for microcapsules in nonwovens used to manufacture for wipes.

Balanced High-Speed Carding

Dan Feroe, Area Sales Manager, NSC illustrated how their TT Card innovation allowed the production of nonwovens with improved ratios of MD and CD strengths at high speeds. A 20/80 viscose/polyester web had been produced at 40 gsm and 250 m/min with an MD/CD tensile ratio of 1.88.  The same card could be used at 150 m/min to make 0.44 ratio – i.e. more like a cross-laid web.  Interestingly, the faster the carding, the higher the CD strength.  At 300 m/min on a 50/50 PET/Viscose CD’s were 40% higher than from a traditional card.  450 kg/hr/metre throughput is possible.

Lessons from Product Development

Doug Cole, Technical Director Product Development, Rockline ran through the regulations for wipes and their testing requirements.  Why after all this testing are there still problems?
  • Adverse skin reactions do develop.  Was the testing protocol not followed? Did the materials change?  Sensitisation after years of use?  Seasonal changes?
  • Mould does grow despite preservative efficacy testing.  Again did the materials or process change, did bugs get stronger, or did the consumer misuse it?
  • Stability testing was OK, but packs burst due to  inflation when trucked over the Rocky Mountains.
  • Why do roll goods turn pink in the warehouse?  (It was the exhaust fumes from the fork-lift trucks).
  • Why did Cottonelle Rollwipes fail in 2001.  (It was way ahead of its time and required changes in consumer behavior)  Similar questions could be asked about Spiffies Dental Wipes, Dawn Wash and Toss, and Sunscreen wet wipes.

Asked how to ensure a new product succeeds, Mr Cole advocated doing everything right.  Would there be a convergence of regulatory testing around the world?  Yes, the USA was now reacting to changes in the EU and Australia.

Discarded Wipe Recycling

George Savage, Executive VP, Calrecovery pointed out that wipes account for less than 0.1% of solid waste.  Their key characteristics for recycling were the elements present, the microbial content, the moisture content, the putrescible organic matter, and any traces of toxic chemicals or plastic contamination.  The disposal options after reuse were recycling into new materials, bio-processing e.g. compost, burning to recover energy and landfill.  Was recycling cost effective?  Yes, mainly, but some communities do collect for recycle and dump in a landfill.  One questioner mentioned the Kelloggs problem in the EU where contamination from recycled cardboard was leaching through the inner liner and contaminating their cereals.

Sustainability, a Corporate Responsibility

Ruth Levy, VP Strategic Product Development Nice-Pak/PDI defined sustainability as avoiding stealing your descendant’s future, and opened the presentation with the National Geographic “7 Billion” video which emphasizes the difficulties arising from population growth, more people consuming more resources, and more people living longer.  In comparison, the possible responses seemed trivial:
  • We need to make a profit to stay in business so sustainability has to be part of how we make a profit.
  • Waste minimization is key.  We pay for it twice now due to costs of disposal.
  • Engage all employees and external contacts in the war on waste.
  •  “Don’t pay more for sustainability”: use less product in the first place.
  • Driving down cost is an environmentally friendly thing to do.  Wal Mart has the world’s largest environmental footprint but its focus on minimum economic cost minimizes waste and impact.

Would regulators move to force post consumer waste back upstream for the producers to deal with?  Ms Levy was not sure.

Waste Reduction

Jason Lough, Waste Reduction Manager, Ahlstrom also saw sustainability concerns as an excellent motivator to encourage employees to reduce waste in manufacturing.  Launched in April 2010, the Waste Reduction program targets 15% reduction and a €20m saving in all 37 Ahstrom plants. It has now been implemented in 27, and will be operated in all plants by the end of 2011.  Every employee has a personal waste reduction goal and plants have Key Performance Indicators for process waste, trim waste, quality waste and total waste on monthly and 3 and 12 month rolling averages.  Success is achieved by meeting the 3-month rolling average targets in 4 consecutive months.
Difficult waste problems include:
  • Changeover waste: the best solution being fewer products and ultimately one-plant one-product.
  • Quality waste:  do customers insist on unnecessarily high specifications?
  • Over usage:  the inclination to ship product with too high a basis weight to be safe.

Asked if, after 18 months, the program was a success, Mr Lough said they were on target for 15% reduction but the economic benefits had yet to be assessed.

Defining “Natural”

Denise Petersen, Skin Care Marketing and Sustainability Manager, BASF (NA) gave Cara Welch’s paper on behalf of the Natural Products Association.  Any product labeled “Natural” should be made of natural ingredients converted with appropriate processes to maintain purity.  It should also avoid the use of natural ingredients known to be harmful.  Excluding water, 95% of the product must use natural ingredients, so some synthetics are allowed as preservatives for example.  A full list ingredients must be on the label, and if the natural label is used on a brand with several product lines, 60% of all the products must meet the certification standard before the label can be used on any one.  A full list of approved ingredients is on the NPA website, and the costs of certifying your products is reduced if you use these ingredients.  As of Sept 2010 synthetic fragrance is prohibited.
Debate over whether a wet-wipe substrate is part of the lotion packaging or a delivery device (and therefore not a wipe ingredient) has come down in favour of the substrate having to be natural.  So, what is a natural nonwoven?  100% cotton or wood pulp clearly is, 100% rayon might be, and synthetics clearly are not.  The committee is still working on this.
Certification lasts 2 years and then resubmission is required.

PLA Biodgradability Update

Larry Wadsworth, Technical Director of US Pacific Nonwovens provided the detailed results of biodegradation tests on melt-blown PLA and PLA/PHB blends, spun-bond PLA and 50/50 viscose/PET spunlace in clean baby-wipes lotion, river water, sea water, compost and soil over both 10 and 20 weeks.  The main conclusions after 10 weeks were:
  • The spunbond lost less tensile and tear strength than the meltblown presumably due to a surface area effect.
  • The 50/50 viscose/PLA  blend was similar to the spunbond except for being far more stable in the lotion.
  • The presence of PHB in the meltblown reduces the strength loss.  PHB is clearly more stable than PLA in the lotion, but costs 3x as much.

The results of the 20 week study will be presented at another conference.

Flushability Update

David Powling, Family Care R&D Leader, KC ran through the progress made in the last year on the INDA/EDANA flushability guidelines which have been under development since 2004 following on from the 2003 P&G/WERF study.
  • “It gets harder every year”
  • The new 3rd edition is due out in March 2011-2
  • This will abandon the 3 tier testing approach and use a series of tests including the new Municipal Sewage Pump test.  To be labeled “flushable” a product has to pass all tests.
  • The real problem is the flushing of non-flushables and a non-flushable labeling code of practice  has been developed by both INDA and EDANA.
  • This needs policing because the labels are not being displayed prominently enough on some toilet wipes.
  • INDA sorted out the proposed California flushables ban, but New Jersey and Maine are now debating similar legislation, with INDA taking part.
  • The majority of US flushables have now switched to dispersible technology rather than small size.
  • Various wipes are being evaluated on the Municipal Pump Test which monitors the power required to pump water containing wipes.  If the power increase exceeds 10% as the wipes are added the wipe has failed the test:
    • Paper hand towels fail.
    • Baby wipes fail badly ( 3 varieties tested).
    • Household cleaning wipes fail, but one labeled flushable passed.
    • Only 2 of 4 flushable toddler wipes passed.
    • All flushable moist wipes passed.
  • Another study of the waste accumulating on the screens at the inlet to a sewage farm is planned.  The last one showed paper towels, not nonwovens as the main source of blockage.

Miscellaneous points

Mike Godfrey, Director of Textiles at MiniFibers Inc. displayed a range of short cut man-made fibres and products made from them.  The wet-laid Mitsui microfiber Synthetic Wood Pulp (100% microfiber PE) was in the form of a very impressive, silky-soft Japanese-style art-paper which, without any special treatment, had been painted with water colour paints in the traditional Japanese style.  Apparently 100% PE fibre of these dimensions is naturally wettable.  The paper was clearly porous, but the water-based paint did not bleed.
Lawson Gary, a cotton farmer and President of Manufacturing of T J Beall Co. showed the Ultraclean 100% cotton as a hydroentangled fabric at 50gsm.  Ultraclean is an unbleached unscoured hydrophobic cotton which has been mechanically cleaned to remove all but 0.01% of non-fibre material.  Carrying its natural oil and wax finish this 1 inch cotton cards well at speeds around 200 m/min and is intended for blending with viscose in biodegradable wet-wipes.  The hydrophobic cotton replaces the polyester and provides the marketing story, and viscose provides the absorbency.
Microbiological testing typically takes 3-7 days, but the Celsis Rapid Detection system does it in a day.  The samples can be prepared in 15 minutes, are incubated in the bench-top instrument for 18-24 hours and the assay takes an hour.  The hundreds of sample tubes move through a spectrometer tuned to adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and thus detects signs of life before there are any colonies to be counted.
Eco2cotton recycle pre-consumer fabric and yarn waste into cardable fibres.  Their T-shirt off-cut fibre appears identical to virgin cotton and is being used in hydroentangled wipes.
Optima’s Soft-Can looks superficially like an aluminium soft drink can, but is made from a heavy multilayer film.  Developed as an air-tight pack for coffee pods, it has been offered as a container for wet wipes for the last 3-4 years.  Despite its attractive and novel appearance its high cost is restricting its uses.
Prime Label & Screen showed flow wrap film with “Rigid Lens II” closures, a sort of compromise between the thin adhesive film closures (which are hard to reposition accurately as the pack empties) and the plastic lids which seal well but add too much bulk and cost.  Rigid Lens II is a stiff film about half the thickness of a credit card which appears flush with the flow wrap and is indistinguishable from the flow-wrap when the whole pack is printed.
Natureworks has yet to announce their new PLA plant, but say it will definitely be in Asia and will definitely not use corn or cellulose as a feed stock.  It should be operating by 2014, and the third plant, most likely in Europe should be operational 3-5 years later.  This one could be fed with biomass.  The Blair Nebraska plant remains busy with 65% of the output going into packaging, the rest being textiles and nonwovens.

Calvin Woodings

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