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This study covers the United States nonwovens industry, defined here to include materials made from fibers, filaments, and films, which are arranged into webs, batts, or sheets, then bonded together using mechanical, thermal, or chemical means.
Nonwovens are categorized by the web formation process used to produce the material:
- spunmelt (spunbonded and meltblown)
For the purposes of this study, sales of composite nonwovens are broken down according to their constituent web types (e.g., sales of SMS are reported in terms of its spunbond and meltblown contents).
Historical data for 2009, 2014, and 2019 and forecasts to 2024 and 2029 are provided for nonwovens production (total) and demand (by web formation process and by market) in current dollars (which are not adjusted to account for inflation). Total demand is also shown in square meters and in metric tons.
Totals for nonwovens presented in this study include nonwovens sold on the merchant market. Nonwoven goods used in captive production are not included in this data. In addition, the study discusses environmental, regulatory, and other market environment factors. Nonwovens raw materials (e.g., fibers and filaments, binder resins, and additives) are also discussed.
Key types of nonwovens include both disposables and durable nonwovens. The disposables market segments are also known as short-life markets since the products are designed for a single use or use over a very short period of time. The durable nonwovens market segments are also known as long-life markets because the nonwovens used in them are designed for repeated or long-term use, and, in some cases, laundering.
Key market breakouts are as follows:
- consumer wipes (e.g., baby wipes, household care wipes, personal hygiene wipes, facial care wipes, hand cleaning moist towelettes)
- personal hygiene products, including infant diapers and training pants, adult incontinence products, and feminine hygiene products
- other consumer markets (e.g., dryer sheets, disposable baby bibs, cosmetic pads, disposable tablecloths, napkins)
- filtration, including air and fluid filters
- medical nonwovens:
- medical gowns
- surgical drapes
- healthcare wipes
- face masks
- other medical garments and textiles (e.g., staff apparel, bedding, headwear, shoe covers, numerous personal care and patient support goods)
- building construction, including roofing materials, house wrap, and acoustic components
- electrical and electronics (e.g., battery separators)
- furnishings (e.g., mattresses, upholstered furniture, window treatments)
- carpet and rugs (e.g., backings, underlays, facings)
- motor vehicles
- other industrial, including industrial and commercial wipes, protective apparel, and other manufactured goods (e.g., agricultural products, coated and laminated substrates, clothing, nonmedical packaging, absorbent foods pads, printing media, oil and chemical sorbents, airline pillow cases and headrests, tape substrates)
COVID-19 Boosts Healthcare & Wipes Nonwovens, Hurts Those Used for Durable Goods
The COVID -19 pandemic has pushed the nonwovens industry to rapidly adapt to both the high demand for crucial end-use products and the limitations of stay-at-home orders and a recession economy:
- Face masks, other PPE, and disinfecting wipes have seen unprecedented spikes in demand, pushing suppliers of nonwovens to invest in new capacity and shift production lines to meet end user needs.
- Stay-at-home orders in the second quarter of 2020 shuttered “nonessential” businesses around the country, effectively stopping demand for nonwovens in industries like automobile and furniture manufacturing. Even as the economy reopened, consumers remained wary and limited spending.
As such, nonwovens used to manufacture products primarily used in commercial settings like offices and retail stores are expected to see prolonged reductions in demand.
Product Development Continues, Increasing Performance & Market Penetration
The nonwovens industry separates itself from competitive products, like woven materials and plastics, by continual efforts by suppliers to improve their products. Innovations in the machinery used to manufacture nonwovens and the composition of the nonwovens themselves are producing higher value nonwoven materials and improving the quality of products made using these materials. Nonwovens today have increased filtering ability, greater softness, and improved absorbency. These innovations are designed to improve the functionality and utility of the products made using nonwovens.
Sustainable Products Will Find Opportunities in Consumer Markets
Consumers increasingly look for products that are produced sustainably and that are made of natural materials. Suppliers of nonwovens continue to seek ways – such as by reducing or eliminating potentially harmful chemicals or by using more natural fibers – to incorporate these preferences into nonwovens employed in the production of consumer-facing products, particularly those used in close contact with their bodies.
Manufacturers are also developing nonwovens made from sustainable materials, though they must ensure these products are able to compete with the performance of synthetic alternatives. Looking forward, web bonding processes that are able to use natural fibers will continue to find opportunities for growth.