Wipes is one of the fastest growing market segments for nonwovens. Smithers report in 2019 placed the current market size at 3B lbs with 6.1% CAGR. The wipes market has been sub-segmented into consumer and industrial segments, with majority share (~80%) for consumer segment. The consumer wipes have been further sub-segmented into baby wipes, personal wipes and homecare wipes with almost equal market size. The most widely used polymeric materials in wipes are polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polypropylene (PP), along with an increasing amount of biobased renewable contents such as wood pulp and cellulosic fibers. Traditionally polyethylene (PE) has not been used in wipes. This presentation will focus on the challenges and propose a method to introduce polyethylene based nonwoven substrates for the wipes application and provides a performance comparison with incumbent wipes.
Dow polyethylene resins were used in a melt extrusion process to produce wipe substrates which were subsequently treated using specific surfactants to create wet wipes. The non-woven wipe substrates were tested for key material properties such as tensile and abrasion, and application properties such as liquid and dirt pick-up to compare the performance of the polyethylene wipe substrates to the traditional wipe substrates made from PET, PP and cellulose fibers. The basis weight of PE based wipes was kept at an average basis weight of incumbent wipes. The tensile strength and abrasion/fuzz performance of PE based wipes showed equivalent or better performance than branded products. The PE based wipes also provides value propositions such as soft feel, potentially lower CO2 footprint and option for recyclability. There are added cost benefits from simpler supply chain and reduced amount of raw materials.
The goal of this presentation is to highlight the key performance metrics of polyethylene in wipes with prospective cost savings and sustainability implications.