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Case studies

1. Nonwovens and advanced wound care
Nonwoven dressings are increasingly used for wound care due to better absorbency and faster healing properties compared to traditional gauze-type materials. Nonwoven products do not adhere to wounds like gauze and can be left in place for longer periods, not only making them easier to remove but also promoting patient comfort, lowering infection rate and speeding up the healing process. They are particularly effective when dealing with wet wounds such as ulcers and burns.

2. Filtration
Most of the water you drink and the air you breathe undergoes some sort of filtration process. Efficient, high performance filters help protect the environment and improve our living conditions. As filtration media, nonwovens are increasingly replacing traditional cellulose- or fiberglass-based filters.

As one of the fastest growing segments in the nonwovens industry, filtration is characterized by the dozens of its end use areas and applications. Nonwovens can be engineered to meet exact specifications and stringent regulatory requirements for the filtration of air, liquid, gas and in myriad of other areas and are fast becoming the medium of choice for filtration.

3. Parental quality of life
Single-use baby diapers and incontinence products have made an important contribution to the quality of life of millions of people. Single-use baby diapers have become the product of choice for over 95% of all families in Europe, contributing to social progress in terms of quality of life, comfort, convenience, reduction in household chores and skin health benefits.

4. Construction
In the context of volatile oil prices and building regulation codes on fire resistance, nonwovens provide cost-effective and efficient solutions to building and construction challenges. In this type of application, their durability, strength and insulation properties make nonwovens a material of choice, at the same time increasing performance and extending the lifespan of buildings.

Non-perforated, nonwoven polymeric housewrap material decreases air infiltration, resulting in increased energy efficiency and maximum moisture control, while at the same time providing savings for the builder and homeowner during installation and after-sale.

5. Automotive
Today more than 40 automotive parts are made with nonwoven fabrics, from trunk liners and carpets to air and fuel filters. Nonwovens help reduce the weight of the car, enhance the comfort and aesthetics and provide advanced insulation, fire retardancy and resistance to water, fuels, extremes of temperature and abrasion.

They contribute to making cars safer, more attractive, longer-lasting, more cost-effective and more sustainable. Due to their versatility and numerous benefits they are also widely used in the design and construction of other vehicles and transportation means: aeroplanes, trains, boats, spacecraft and satellites.

6. Applying best practice
As early as 1999 the producers of tampons took the initiative to publish a Code of Practice defining a series of best practices relating to tampons. Significant efforts were made by industry to help prevent menstrual toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a rare but serious illness.

Within the European Union, tampons must comply with the General Product Safety Directive that holds manufacturers responsible for providing consumers with products that are safe to use. In addition, tampon manufacturers in Europe follow the EU Tampon Code of Practice, or a national equivalent, which originated from a voluntary industry initiative, brokered by EDANA, to harmonise relevant consumer information in all EU countries, irrespective of the tampon brand used.

A key element of the code of practice is a droplet system that categorises the absorbency of tampons into six classes. Tampons are made under high quality production control standards including a series of checks and tests based on company quality assurance systems and user monitoring programmes. The harmonization of communication of absorbency properties has enabled consumers to choose appropriate products, which avoids unnecessary waste.

7. Feminisation of the global workforce
The global expansion of trade, capital flows, and technology has resulted in increased formal and informal market opportunities for women, normally referred to as the feminisation of labour. A 2006 study on women's general and reproductive health in global supply chains revealed that women between the ages of 18-25 comprise the vast majority of workers making products for export from emerging economies such as China and India to markets in developed countries. One of the most prevalent reproductive health issues among female workers as dysmenorrhea and improper menstrual hygiene.

These challenges impact not only their personal lives, but affect their workplace performance as well. Provision of sanitary napkins has been associated with improved menstrual hygiene and reduction in reproductive tract infections and reducing absenteeism.

8. Development goals focused on women and economic development
Education of girls and women in general has been a high priority for many Governments following the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of promoting gender equality and empowering women. There are a number of negative impacts that the lack of sanitary napkins and proper menstrual hygiene have on the lives of women and girls in developing countries.

The main issues were girls failing to attend school during their menstruation, reproductive tract infections from poor menstrual hygiene, the social taboo surrounding the topic and the overall impact on the education of girls. In 2009 a pilot study carried out by the University of Oxford, researchers in Ghana tested a combination of providing sanitary towels and educating girls about menstruation and hygiene. After six months, the rate of absenteeism fell by more than half, from about 21% of school days to about 9%. The study highlights the importance of sanitary products and hygiene in female education and development and is a key issue for policymakers, NGOs and manufacturers to address.

9. Ageing populations in Europe – impact on demand for incontinence products versus working longer
The economic and social impact of Europe's ageing population will present countries with a greater and more sustained challenge than that from the current financial crisis, health policy experts have warned. In response, countries need to rethink their pension and employment policies and put the promotion of healthy ageing at the top of their agendas.

10. Reducing the thickness of films made possible through step changes in technology offers significant gains for film producers and their customers
In the case of one film producer, a reduction of 4 g/m2 in film thickness resulted in annual savings of 8,000 m2 of plastic, conserving natural resources and reducing annual emissions of CO2 by 18,000 mt. In addition, 800 truck journeys are avoided and 192,000 litres of diesel are saved during raw material delivery and film transport.

Reductions in thickness alone mean annual savings in raw material costs of 210 million for this client and its customers. Further savings for customers come from 'lighter' end products and an improved efficiency in processing, since rolls of film are significantly longer. This leads to fewer roll changes, reducing process waste and its financial impact, improving competitiveness and protecting jobs. Lighter products enable savings in packaging and logistics costs. Sustainability thus delivers both financial and ecological benefits.

11. Geotextiles
Tensile properties and longevity are of the utmost importance for geotextile products and their end use in construction projects. Through utilisation of new production technology developments for improving the properties in geotextiles it has, in recent years, been possible to reduce the weight of geotextile products by up to 10% while maintaining the required properties.

12. Acoustic products
Acoustic nonwovens are employed in areas as diverse as housing or automotive products. Recent innovations in the production of ultrafine fibres has made it possible to reduce the weight of nonwoven applications by up to 90% while retaining the equivalent acoustic insulation properties. In automotive applications this has the additional benefit of reducing the overall weight of the vehicle, and thereby assisting in fuel economy improvements.

13. Life cycle assessment of baby wipes
In 2010 EDANA coordinated a lifecycle assessment (LCA) for the major producers of baby wipes. The LCA compared baby wipes, washcloth and cotton balls, and shows that a singleuse product does not necessarily have a worse impact on the environment than a reusable product. The study shows a different environmental impact of baby wipes versus other cleaning methods, with no clear superiority on cloths wash and favourable results on the majority of indicators for the use of wipes vs cotton balls.

The LCA considered all environmental impacts throughout the life of each product across the European Union, from raw materials production to waste management. The study is inconclusive for the comparison between baby wipes and washcloths, with different environmental impacts driven by the amount and temperature of the water used with the washcloth, and how efficient the washing of the cloth is. Contrary to some popular opinions, the study shows that a single-use product does not generally have a worse impact on the environment than a reusable product.

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