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Green development of fiber materials for sanitary products

Birla and Sparkle, an Indian women’s care startup, recently announced that they have partnered to develop a plastic-free sanitary pad.

Nonwovens manufacturers not only have to ensure that their products stand out from the rest, but are constantly looking for ways to meet the increasing demand for more “natural” or “sustainable” products, and the emergence of new raw materials not only gives products new characteristics, but also offers potential customers the opportunity to deliver new marketing messages.

From cotton to hemp to linen and rayon, multinational companies and industry upstarts are using natural fibers, but developing this form of fiber is not without challenges, such as balancing performance and price or ensuring a stable supply chain.

According to Indian fiber manufacturer Birla, designing a sustainable and plastic-free alternative requires careful consideration of factors such as performance, cost and scalability. Issues to be addressed include comparing the basic performance standards of alternative products with those currently used by consumers, ensuring that claims such as plastic-free products can be verified and substantiated, and selecting cost-effective and readily available materials to replace the vast majority of plastic products.

Birla has successfully integrated functional sustainable fibers into a wide range of products, including flushable wipes, absorbable sanitary surfaces and subsurfaces. The company recently announced that it has partnered with Sparkle, an Indian women’s care product startup, to develop a plastic-free sanitary pad.

The collaboration with Ginni Filaments, a producer of nonwovens, and Dima Products, another manufacturer of hygiene products, facilitated rapid iterations of the company’s products, allowing Birla to efficiently process its new fibers into final products.

Kelheim Fibres also focuses on working with other companies to develop disposable non-plastic products. Earlier this year, Kelheim partnered with nonwovens maker Sandler and hygiene product maker PelzGroup to develop a plastic-free sanitary pad.

Perhaps the biggest impact on the design of nonwovens and nonwovens products is the EU Single-Use Plastics Directive, which came into force in July 2021. This legislation, and similar measures to be introduced in the United States, Canada and other countries, are already putting pressure on manufacturers of wipes and feminine hygiene products, which are the first categories to be subject to such regulations and labeling requirements. There has been a broad response from the industry, with some companies determined to eliminate plastic from their products.

Harper Hygienics has recently launched what it claims is the first baby wipes made with natural flax fibres. The Poland-based company has chosen Linen as a key ingredient in its new baby Care product line, Kindii Linen Care, which includes a line of baby wipes, cotton pads and cotton swabs.

Flax fiber is the second most durable fiber in the world, according to the company, which said it was chosen because it has been shown to be sterile, reduces bacteria levels, is hypoallergenic, does not cause irritation to even the most sensitive skin, and is highly absorbent.

Meanwhile, Acmemills, a manufacturer of innovative nonwovens, has developed a revolutionary, flushable and compostable line of wipes called Natura, made from bamboo, which is known for its rapid growth and minimal ecological impact. Acmemills manufactures the wipes substrate using a 2.4-meter wide and 3.5-meter wide spunlace production line, which is ideal for processing more sustainable fibers.

Cannabis is also becoming increasingly popular with hygiene product manufacturers due to its sustainability characteristics. Not only is cannabis sustainable and renewable, it can also be grown with minimal environmental impact. Last year, Val Emanuel, a Southern California native, founded a women’s care company, Rif, to sell products made using marijuana, after recognizing its potential as an absorbable substance.

Rif care’s current pads come in three absorption grades (regular, Super and night). The pads feature a top layer made from a mixture of hemp and organic cotton fibers, a reliable source and chlorine-free fluff core layer (no superabsorbent polymer (SAP)), and a sugar-based plastic base, ensuring the product is fully biodegradable. “My co-founder and best friend Rebecca Caputo is working with our biotech partners to leverage other underutilized plant materials to ensure our sanitary pad products are more absorbent,” Emanuel said.

Bast Fibre Technologies Inc. (BFT) facilities in the United States and Germany currently supply hemp fiber for the production of nonwoven products. The U.S. facility, located in Limberton, North Carolina, was acquired from Georgia-Pacific Cellulose in 2022 to meet the rapidly growing demand for the company’s sustainable fibers. The European plant is located in Tonisvorst, Germany, and was acquired from Faser Veredlung in 2022. These acquisitions give BFT the ability to meet increasing consumer demand for its sustainable fibers, which are marketed under the sero brand name for use in hygiene products and other products.

Lenzing Group, a leading global producer of wood specialty fibers, has expanded its portfolio of sustainable viscose fibers by launching carbon-neutral viscose fibers under the Veocel brand in the European and US markets. In Asia, Lanzing will convert its existing traditional viscose fiber capacity to reliable specialty fiber capacity in the second half of this year. This expansion is Veocel’s latest move in providing nonwovens value chain partners and brands that have a positive impact on the environment, contributing to an industry-wide reduction in carbon footprint.

Biolace Zero from Solminen is made from 100% carbon neutral Veocel Lyocel fiber, fully biodegradable, compostable and plastic-free. Due to its excellent wet strength, dry strength, and softness, the fiber can be used in the production of a wide range of wipes, such as baby wipes, personal care wipes, and household wipes. The brand was initially sold only in Europe, with Somin announcing in March that it would expand its material production in North America.

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Company Name: Healthsmile (Shandong) Medical Technology Co., Ltd.
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Country: China

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