Innovation can often move so quickly that design concepts are overlooked, as well as important factors such as the impact on the environment. At INDA RISE 2018, researchers, innovators, scientists, and manufacturers in nonwovens were implored in the Keynote presentation to revisit innovation by drawing on biological design in nature and consider how conscious design can prevent harmful waste in our marine environments and landfills.
Biologically-centered design carried through the conference with presentations shedding light on the latest advances in decomposition of nonwovens. Currently, most of the nonwoven products are made with plastic materials like polyester or polypropylene, which take hundreds of years to decompose. Hygiene waste is a big problem for our landfills, taking 450 to 1000 years to degrade. Many feminine hygiene products also have harmful chemicals that can be toxic. Shero is on a mission to alleviate waste with a fully biodegradable feminine hygiene product. They presented their product, Sheropads, nearing the final phase of research and development. Shero is implementing manufacturing and distribution programs that eliminate harmful byproducts, and also supporting women in developing countries.
Start-up Mango Materials, out of California, presented unique technology that uses a microbial process to transform methane gas emissions into Polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) biopolymers, which are biodegradable in both the marine environment and compost environment. The question of price is generally a hurdle in new innovation, yet this product is economically competitive with conventional oil-based materials and glucose-based PHA. Though the company has just one pilot facility now, it is in talks with methane producers, such as dairy farms. They are seeking nonwoven supply chain partners and collaborations with brands as they scale-up production.
The Lenzing Group announced that it has successfully pioneered a new technology platform, Lenzing Web Technology, to make absorbent nonwoven fabrics that will be certified biodegradable, clean, and safe. The process starts with wood pulp and produces a nonwoven fabric made of 100% continuous Lyocell filament. This web can be integrated with standard non-thermal-based nonwoven bonding technologies. It enables a unique self-bonding mechanism where filaments bond into a fabric during the laydown process, resulting in a product range with a wide variety of surface textures, drapeability, and dimensional stability.
“Given the nonwoven fabric market size is expected to reach close to US$35 billion in 2022, with a staggering compound annual growth rate of 7.5% per year over that period, it is crucial to support eco-responsible development of the nonwoven industry by using sustainable raw materials. Consumers have become more aware of the negative impact of plastics in waterways and marine ecosystems. It is therefore incumbent upon the disposable products industry to step up and address such concerns. We envision that our new Lenzing Web Technology will enable the value chain to create more innovative applications out of natural, biodegradable cellulose materials” said Wolfgang Plasser, vice president of Global Business Management Nonwovens at Lenzing.
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