Nonwovens already dominate the market in hygiene products, in incontinence pads, diapers and feminine hygiene products; Colleen Ward, vice president, global marketing for Avery Dennison highlights the fact that nonwovens are also used to provide the body facing side of ostomy products. One of the largest growing segments in current medical markets, and one where there has been much activity and investment to date, is the incontinence products market. There is a desire to improve quality of life for those suffering from all forms of incontinence; their expectation is to lead as active a life as possible. Market demand is for superior products that meet three key criteria: simplicity, comfort and security/confidence. New enhanced, absorbent, odor neutralized undergarments and body shields will see the fastest gains in demand among incontinence products due to the advantages associated with comfort and protection they present for users13.
The advantage afforded by nonwovens is the disposable one time philosophy, eliminating the potential for cross contamination, the transmission of infections due to ineffective recycling processes and the risk of impaired performance due to unforeseen degradation, yet this practice also adds to the growing waste stream14. Class IV surgical drapes and gowns will post the strongest sales gains among nonwoven medical textiles as surgical infection prevention safeguards are upgraded by hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers. Disposable face masks will also fare well in the marketplace, benefiting from routine use by medical providers in virtually all direct contact patient procedures.
Moving forward, nonwovens will face issues related to reimbursement and coverage provided by the payers, as well as the potential for “bloodless surgeries” if natural orifice and non-invasive surgeries become the norm. Hence there would be a need to transition from the typical surgical drape, yet with the ever-present issues focused on waste and waste streams.
Nonwovens are already used in a variety of products, and market opportunities continue to grow15. They are routinely featured in protective apparel, surgical drapes and gowns, infection control apparel like isolation gowns and are also a major component in facial protection.