Sustainable Nonwoven Technolohies
What is Nonwoven?
Nonwoven fabric is a fabric-like material made from staple fiber (short) and long fibers (continuous long), bonded together by chemical, mechanical, heat or solvent treatment. The term is used in the textile manufacturing industry to denote fabrics, such as felt, which are neither woven nor knitted. Some nonwoven materials lack sufficient strength unless densified or reinforced by a backing.
They are flat or tufted porous sheets that are made directly from separate fibers, molten plastic or plastic film. They are not made by weaving or knitting and do not require converting the fibers to yarn. Some nonwoven fabrics can be recycled after use, given the proper treatment and facilities. For this reason, some consider non-woven a more ecological fabric for certain applications, especially in fields and industries where disposable or single-use products are important, such as in baby care, toilet papers, hospitals, automotive industry, construction are etc.
Nonwoven fabrics are engineered fabrics that may be single-use, have a limited life, or be very durable. Nonwoven fabrics provide specific functions such as absorbency, liquid repellence, resilience, stretch, softness, strength, flame retardancy, washability, cushioning, thermal insulation, acoustic insulation, filtration, use as a bacterial barrier and sterility. These properties are often combined to create fabrics suited for specific jobs while achieving a good balance between product use-life and cost.
In the wipe industry, the most popular type of nonwovens is made of polyester and viscose blends out of carding process and is called Spunlace. They are not considered to be environmentally friendly as they are not recyclable. The only biodegradable and therefore environmentally form of that concept can be produced, made of 100% viscose, lyocell or cotton fibers.
Other NW materials that can be used for wipes are made through spunbonding, and/or thermobonding processes by using polypropylene fibers. Another alternative is airlaid nonwovens that use chemical bonding for fluff pulp. These are much less common and these types of materials are not favored by the wipe converting machines so much.
100% wetlaid materials contain wood pulp or a combination of wood pulp or lyocell fibers. This process does not require carding and uses hydroentangling for bonding. This material is considered flushable, biodegradable and the most eco-friendly of all the above options due to its fiber structure and production technology.