According to figures released by EDANA, the international association serving the nonwovens and related products industries, production of nonwovens in Europe grew by just over 5% in 2005 to reach 1.4 million tons. This compares with 1.33 million tons in 2004 when the annual growth was 3.7%. According to a comparison based on the same sample of companies in 2004 and 2005, the average price of nonwovens has not decreased but, for the first time in many years, increased by about 2% from €3.220 to €3.285 per kg. As a result the total turnover of the European nonwovens industry is estimated at around €4,610 million.
Diverging trends are affecting the various bonding processes of drylaid nonwovens. Growth in the hydroentanglement process has been moderate this year at just 3.5 % and it is actually the needling process that has recorded the highest apparent growth at 4.7%. Polymer-based (spunmelt) nonwovens, on the other hand, witnessed an impressive growth with more than 7.5% increase in 2005. Airlaid production, compared to figures of 2004, has recorded a slight growth, mostly due to increase in deliveries to the hygiene sector.
The main end-use for nonwovens remains the hygiene market with a 33% share of deliveries, amounting to 462,100 tonnes.
Pierre Wiertz, General Manager of EDANA said, “The most dramatic apparent growth areas for nonwovens in 2005 were protective clothing (29.6 %) and medical/surgical (25.1 %), closely followed by agriculture (22.4 %).”
Polypropylene, either in fiber or granule form, continues to be the most important polymer used in the European nonwovens industry accounting for 692,800 tons, 46.4% of the total fiber and polymer chip consumption, but, for various reasons, polyester, both in fiber and chip form, has retained the highest growth.
The positive EU balance of exports and imports of nonwovens roll goods has continued to decrease. In 2005, the 25 EU member states altogether exported 203,140 tonnes of nonwovens (against 247,000 tons in 2004) at a value of almost €870 million, which represents a 10% decrease compared to the previous year.