According to figures released by Edana, the international association serving the nonwovens and related products industries, production of nonwovens in Europe grew 6.5% in 2006 to reach nearly 1.5 million tons. This compares with 1.4 tons in 2005 when the annual growth was 5%. According to an estimate, based on the same sample of companies in 2005 and 2006, the average price of nonwovens appears to have increased by almost 3% from €3.33 to €3.43 per kg. As a result the total turnover of the European nonwovens industry is estimated at around €5.1 billion.
Diverging trends are affecting the various bonding processes of drylaid nonwovens. Pierre Wiertz, general manager of Edana said, “Growth in the hydroentanglement process has still been substantial this year at more than 6%, but it is actually the needling process that has recorded the highest apparent growth at 13.8 %.”
Polymer-based (spunmelt) nonwovens, on the other hand, witnessed an impressive growth— a more than 10% increase in 2006. Airlaid production, compared to figures of 2005, 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 497,900 tonnes. This grew 5.4% in 2006.
The most significant growth areas for nonwovens in 2006 were garments (14.4%)–mostly protective clothing–and wipes for personal care (13.8%), followed by liquid filtration (12.2%) and geotextiles (11.4%), a diversity which perfectly illustrates the on-going growth and innovative uses – both industrial and daily-life – of nonwovens even in a maturing market like Europe.
Polypropylene, either in fiber or granule form, continues to be the most important polymer used in the European nonwovens industry, accounting for 766,200 tonnes or 48.4% of the total fiber and polymer chip consumption, but wood pulp has retained the highest growth at 12.1%.
In 2006 the positive EU balance of exports and imports of nonwoven roll goods has increased. EU27 Member States altogether exported 215,554 tons of nonwovens (compared to 193,716 tonnes in 2005) at a value of almost €928 million, which represents a 11.3% increase in volume and 14.4% in value compared to the previous year.
Moreover the positive balance of trade in nonwovens (almost €0.4 billion) contributed, by more than 30%, to the trade surplus of the EU textiles sector.