Interview with Pierre Wiertz

Pierre Wiertz
Pierre Wiertz
General Manager
TT: EDANA recently collaborated with ANNA to facilitate free trade between Japan and EU for nonwovens. Why do you think is free trade between the two regions important?

Both economies have a long tradition in the nonwovens industries, with a focus on product innovation and economic investment helping to pioneer the industry. Both the EU and Japan have long enjoyed the status of technology leaders, to the extent that specialised machinery from these countries have been widely exported in the rest of the world. Additionally, the whole supply chain, from fibres and polymers to finished products, has benefited from Japan-EU nonwovens trade, with more complementarities than real competition between their respective specialties. This explains in our view why both parties would benefit from total elimination of tariff duties. Altogether, EDANA strongly supports free and fair trade between all countries, and for all business sectors. In this, we believe that only by operating on a level playing field can both our individual business sectors and our industry grow sustainably, by openly accessing materials and new customers alike. In addition to supporting such negotiations and the elimination of barriers to trade, EDANA also works in the field of product testing and standards, and coordinates with its global partners and member companies in many markets to harmonize the way in which products are assessed.

TT: What do you think about INDEX <sup>TM</sup>14? How is it contributing to the global nonwovens industry?

INDEX TM14 is shaping up to be the biggest edition ever. We already have 570 exhibitors booked, and with a focus on the entire Nonwovens and related industries, from geotextiles to packaging to construction to automotive and to hygiene and medical applications, our industry is in almost every part of people's lives. In this, INDEX is an unmissable event for anyone currently in or interested in the Nonwovens industry at any stage of the value chain. For this edition again, EDANA and PALEXPO teams have put together an ambitious plan intended to reflect, from a 360° perspective, all the potential nonwovens have to offer and to provide a meaningful and relevant experience for each and every visitor. The theme of the campaign for this edition centres on the diverse range of properties that can be engineered into nonwovens and just how a creative idea in one field can produce a successful solution in another application. With that campaign and the high-level visitors that characterise the INDEX show in Geneva, the industry can expect that decision-makers from 5 continents looking for smart nonwoven solutions will bring innovative perspectives for the re-application of existing technologies to completely new areas. Numerous tutorials, product presentations and sector-specific workshops and fora, from automotive to geotextiles, will contribute to showcasing again the versatility and diversity of nonwovens.

TT: Cutting edge technological innovation in nonwovens market is likely to revolve around sustainability in the near future. Do you agree or not? Please give your reasons as well.

We do believe that sustainability is a driving force for innovation, especially if you consider the three pillars of social, economic and environmental sustainability. In fact this was already a major business concern for the nonwovens industry, as the only way to stay in business is to constantly become more efficient, without compromising on product performance. Innovation may be driven by a desire to find or utilize new or renewable resources, to reduce waste, or to ensure better lives, a healthy planet and a healthy economy for current and future generations. Nonwovens play a major part in so many peoples daily lives, be it by protecting patients and healthcare professionals during surgery, or ensuring that a road constructed today lasts for many years, so it's only natural that an industry so involved in every part of our lives is part of the force that continues to challenge us to find new and innovative ways to address our needs - today and tomorrow!

TT: How is the market reacting to the innovations in sustainable nonwoven products at present?

First there not such a thing as a "sustainable nonwoven" that one can oppose to a "traditional" product. . Our industry has delivered many solutions to make the products and processes more efficient, with some significant breakthroughs including the introduction of superabsorbent polymers in hygiene products, meaning that less pulp was needed to make a product that is much lighter performed better for the skin health of the user. In the wake of the hygiene sector, nonwovens in a wide variety of applications have contributed to the sustainability of many products and processes, by enabling better vehicles, cleaner air and water and many other benefits. We continue to see an open and welcoming attitude to the use of new raw materials, and this will be highlighted by exhibitors at INDEXTM14, held in Geneva from the 8th to the 11th of April, 2014.

TT: What is the future scope of sustainable nonwovens product in the market?

Nonwovens have a great potential in many areas as they can be used as a more efficient alternative to materials currently employed. Examples include packaging but also uses in vehicles, where nonwovens have replaced many steel parts and provide even better functionality while being lighter and recyclable. Compostable nonwovens used in agricultural applications are another example, where the material is solid enough to fulfil its role and yet disappears when the job is done. The versatility of nonwovens, both in terms of the materials they are made of, and the customised features they can be given, make them serious competitors for plastics, paper, textiles, glass, metal... This is a guarantee that existing application areas will continue to grow and new markets will emerge thanks to the creativity of companies in our industry. It is part of EDANA's mission to help the industry securing on-going access to the raw materials it requires for its sustainable development. Admittedly, there is often a prejudice that an “environmentally sustainable” product must by definition be made of, or include the highest possible proportion of materials of renewable origin. But if one applies a scientifically-sound, LCA-based approach to balance the environmental costs and benefits of using fossil-fuel-based or renewable materials , the truth is not one-sided. Making a product 25 % lighter and/or less bulky, for instance, while still using traditional materials, can result in equal or higher environmental gains through reduced impacts, including at the packaging and transportation stage, than including a certain percentage of renewable raw materials.

Published on: 10/03/2014

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of