New dispersible nonwovens capacity to outstrip demand by at least 200%

A new report from Smithers Apex, The Future of Flushable Wipes to 2020, examines the key market forces shaping the future of the flushable wipes industry.

Up until the mid-2000s, the flushable wipes market was small and the supply of suitable (dispersible) nonwovens was equally small. From the mid-2000s until 2014, the flushable wipes market has experienced above average growth globally, although the supply of dispersible nonwovens remained relatively small. Despite a global economy that is still growing very slowly and unevenly, and a nonwovens market that has also slowed as a result, the flushable wipes market continues to grow at an elevated rate.

“The flushable wipes market is entering a period of significant change and potential growth,” said Phillip Mango, author of the report.

“Multiple nonwovens producers are adding significant new capacity in dispersible nonwovens targeting the flushable wipes market. By the end of 2016, for the first time in history, there will be significant excess capacity of flushable wipe substrate. This should result in reduced substrate cost and even faster market growth.”

Flushable wipes are projected to grow at over twice the rate of all nonwovens and all nonwoven wipes through 2020. In 2015, flushable wipes account for $1.4 billion in sales, and consume 1.4 billion square metres or 72,500 tonnes of nonwovens. This is up from $796 million, and 819 million square metres or 42,500 tonnes in 2010. Projections are for sales of $2.7 billion, 2.7 million square metres or 137,100 tonnes by 2020.

Convenience, hygiene, performance, cost and consumer eco-perception are all driving demand. The selection of nonwoven substrates for flushable wipes is driven by concerns about current and potential regulations, as well as the supply/price of petroleum based raw materials.

In 2015, 72,500 tonnes or 1.4 billion square metres valued at $1.4 billion are used in the flushable and biodegradable wipes market. Spunlace has the largest market share with 38,500 tonnes (53.2%), followed by airlaid with 23,500 tonnes (40.6%). About two thirds of all nonwovens used for flushable wipes in 2015 are INDA/EDANA guideline compliant dispersible nonwovens; by 2020 this will increase to about 80%, due to an unprecedented expansion of such nonwoven capacity in the 2014-16 time period. Although exact new capacity volume is not known, it is estimated that new capacity will exceed current flushable wipes demand by at least 200%.

Compliance with the INDA/EDANA guidelines requires the majority of raw materials used be biodegradable. This has led to increasing percentages of such biodegradable fibres as wood pulp, rayon, Lyocell and cotton.

The largest end use segment is moist toilet tissue, a well-established market that will account for over $622 million in global sales in 2015, with a projected value of $960 million by 2020. Toddler toilet care wipes is second, with a sales value in 2015 of $338 million, increasing to $601 million by 2020.

Based on extensive primary and secondary research, The Future of Flushable Wipes to 2020 examines the key market forces shaping the future of the flushable wipes industry, including regulations and guidelines and details of the major market players.