PE Films: a 1% rise in Europe

The PE film industry consumed over 7.4 million tonnes of polymer in 2016. Polyethylene film accounts for 80% of film products manufactured in Europe. The polyethylene film industry in Europe has continued to grow at a steady rate over recent years. Despite trends to use more linear and metallocene materials enabling film producers to make thinner films, the volume demand has continued to rise to reach over 7.4 million tonnes of polyethylene materials consumed for film extrusion in 2016, a 1% rise on the previous year.
Germany, the leading country for polyethylene film extrusion in Europe. has seen its film extrusion industry pretty much maintain its status throughout the financial crisis and the subsequent Eurozone crisis with demand in 2016 finally surpassing pre-crisis levels. In contrast Italy, which previously had been the largest market for the production of PE film, film extruders have struggled to regain volumes since the financial crisis with the market still 24% smaller than it was in 2007.
Linear grades of polyethylene, including metallocenes are now believed to account for the majority of feedstocks used by film extruders.  AMI estimates the split of demand amongst film extruders as 44% for LL grades, 43% conventional LDPE and 13% HDPE/MDPE.
AMI’s directory of Polyethylene Film Extruders in Europe provides detailed information on over 1,200 polyethylene film extrusion sites in Europe. For more information, contact Cathy Turbitt, from AMI.



Growth in the PE film industry

The demand for PE film has continued to make a slow, steady recovery since 2010. The recession of 2008-2009 saw polyethylene film production drop by 10% and output is still some half a million tonnes below the peak level of 2007. Recovery and growth are no longer based solely on tonnage. With downgauge processes and linear an metallocene grades, it is possible to make and to use thinner films for the same applications.
According to AMI (Bristol, UK), in its recent  tenth edition of the Directory of Polyethylene Film Extruders in Europe, in 2013, for the first time ever, the consumption of linear and metallocene grades by film extruders exceeded the usage of conventional LDPE grades. This trend is here to stay, with AMI forecasting that the use of metallocenes materials in film extrusion will grow at a rate of 3 or 4 percentage points above that for the industry as a whole as more and more extruders develop products using them.

Film extruders have been steadily increasing their use of linear and metallocene resins to adapt to consumer demands, which helps to explain the good growth rates in stretch and shrink film production.   Shrink and stretch films, used to protect goods in transit, each accounted for 1 million tonnes of polyethylene film production in 2013. AMI’s directory shows the importance of this sector with 52% of plants involved in the production of stretch film or shrink film for collation or pallet wrapping.  This trend is reflected across Europe with Germany taking the lead, where 61% of film extrusion sites are producing shrink and stretch films.  The leading producer of stretch film, the Italian group Manuli Stretch, operates one of the largest plants for stretch film in Europe in Schkopau, Germany.  image

Consolidation and restructuring continues to be a major feature of the film extrusion market. The Coveris Group brings together the PE film operations of Britton Group, Veriplast, Unterland and Kobusch. Nortdenia is now part of the Mondi Group and RKW’s took over Hyplast.

Trends in agricultural films market

The European market for agricultural film has been experiencing steady growth over the past decade exceeding half a million tonnes in 2013, according to the report Agricultural Film Market in Europe 2014 [click for more information], recently published by AMI Consulting. Spain and Italy are the largest markets overall, accounting for almost 40% of demand primarily driven by their intensive horticultural activity where large quantities of greenhouse and mulch films are used. In contrast, Northern Europe with vast areas of grass land is a major producer of animal fodder and has significant consumption of silage films both silage sheet and stretch wrap.image

Silage film which is forecast to grow by just over 1% a year over the next five year period is going to be driven primarily by booming biomass production, demand for increasing quality of fodder and reduction of spoilage, increased number of dairy cows, increasing nutritional intake per cow, silage being increasingly fed to horses and haylage being also increasingly baled and wrapped.
Consumption of conventional mulch film in tonnage terms is forecast to decline slightly over the next five years as a result of the relative maturity of the market, shrinking of the area for crop cultivation and the need for the reduction of post-use plastic waste (by downgauging or by using biodegradable films instead).
Market trends for greenhouse film demand are very similar to mulch films as both types of films are increasingly used in combination. The European market is a mature one and with one season films being gradually replaced by films lasting up to 5 years, in tonnage terms the market has seen a decline and the process is expected to continue for the next five years.
The market is increasingly driven by value rather than volume. In order to increase market share in an oversupplied market, film companies will strive to develop innovative customised high performance thinner multilayer films and as well as look at opportunities for further consolidation. Some of the most recent major takeovers include RKW acquiring Hyplast and Biofol Film, ITW Mima’s industrial films business being acquired by the US-based Carlyle Group, Morera & Vallejo acquiring the bankrupt TPM group in Spain and Unterland being acquired by the Britton Group now rebranded as Coveris.  

The relevance of agricultural film

In order to feed a global population which is expected to top 9 billion people by 2050, food waste needs to be eliminated, distribution of food improved and food production increased. At the same time agriculture faces challenges due to changing economic and environmental trends including climate change, biofuel expansion, slowing agricultural yields, rising meat demand and ever increasing calorie intake from a growing global middle class. It is estimated that by 2050 about 70% of the global population will be urban, compared to 50% today.
Although the population increase in Europe is going to be only marginal, European agriculture will continue to play its part in global food production, while simultaneously fighting for its existence in the face of competing pressures for land use. The agricultural sector is forced to produce more food of increasing quality on less land within a shorter space of time using less resources, while generating minimum waste.  Extending the growing season and increasing yields per hectare of land have been and will remain the main drivers for the use of agricultural films.  In addition, plastic films protect the crops, which has direct implications on the crop’s quality.  Films can also improve a farm’s efficiency by reducing the amount of chemicals, water and energy used.

In addition to its consultancy work in agricultural films, AMI also organises the annual global conference for the agricultural film industry. The next Agricultural Film Conference will be held in Barcelona, Spain on 15-17 September 2014. For more information on this conference, contact Jenny Skinner (click to email).

Shale gas impacts PE film market

Shale gas development in the U.S. will significantly impact the growth of PE film usage and global trade, says AMI in report published in January. Shale gas will lead to major reduction in the cost of PE resin in addition to reducing the energy cost of subsequent film production. It is highly probable that North America will have a polymer cost base on a par with that in the Middle East, leading to PE film exports from North America overtaking those of the Middle East. Looking beyond 2018, this projected cost advantage, when combined with the technological expertise of U.S. polyethylene film producers, will ensure North American PE film producers become truly global players. Other factors that will have an impact on the growth of PE film production will be the continuing investment in export-oriented regions such as the Middle East and Southeast Asia, and the growth of middle classes in less developed global regions.

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Torninova shows new 3250 mm bubble wrap line

imageThe new COEX BUBBLE™ line will be demontrated by Torninova (Perugia, Italy) during a "open house" show from 29 to 31 january. With maximum production speed  of 135 m/mim, and a output of 1250 kg/h, this new line works with a new and patented twin-screw system and produces bubble wrap film with 10 layers, including a polyamide barrier layer.
Acording to Torninova, the new big line has the ability to produce 30 g/m2 bubble wrap with 100% recycled material. Raw materials with extremely different melt indexes can be mixed thanks to the new patented twin-screw extruder technology. Another feature is the new TRIPLEX winder, with full automatic core loading, the ability to produce coreless rolls in line and to switch from core to coreless without sopping the machine.
Bubble wrap films, with large and diverse applications, can be coextruded and formed at high speeds, while keeping bubble resistance and roundness. The new COEX BUBBLE™ has its cast cylinders placed between the die lips and forming cylinder.

Asia’s Middle Class Driving BOPP Film Markets

imageThe BOPP film industry continued to show robust growth during 2011 with demand advancing by 5.5% compared with 2010 to top 6 million tonnes for the first time according to the latest report on the global BOPP film market from AMI Consulting. Demand growth was slightly down on 2010 which had been the bounce back year from the financial crisis for most markets around the world.

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News and trends on Performance Films

Plastics film processors, converters and users gathered in Düsseldorf on June 20–21, 2012 to listen to experts from materials and technology suppliers, as well as key customers, discuss the latest business and technology trends in the sector. During the two-day Annual World Symposium on Performance Films (SPF 2012) organized by global information group IHS, they also had the opportunity to hear expert market analysis from IHS’s own experienced researchers.

SPF 2012 saw the introduction of a new technology developed in Switzerland for the production of high-strength, high-barrier films made from a liquid crystal polymer, using a novel extrusion die incorporating technologies from fiber and film production. The technology was described by Jan Giesbrecht, the CEO of a new company, Taenia Tec, spun off from the ETH research institute near Zurich.

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