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Wood and natural fibre composites current trend in consumer goods

News International-French

26 Nov 2015

More and more companies specifically use wood and natural fibre plastic granulates in consumer goods like watchcases, toys, combs or trays – the unique look and feel give the impression of a high-value product and are well received by customers.

For many years research institutes and industrial labs have been developing Wood-Plastic Composites (WPC) and Natural Fibre Composites (NFC) and use the materials in small series of consumer goods. So far relevant volumes are only placed at the decking market. But it seems that the time has come to implement these materials in large-scale production.

The end products have a more refined look as pure plastic products, they stand out, look more natural, have a nice feel and need less plastic due to the wood and natural fibres – which benefits the environmental footprint. The mechanical properties are also nothing to sneeze at. But the most important part: the products appeal to consumers.

In November, Tchibo (DE) carried a WPC bedside table clock, two weeks later a series of toys from plantoys (TH) with wood particles from old rubber trees as filler. The surfaces of the toys have a pleasant rubber-like feel, quite different from traditional plastics. Bamboo fibres are also more and more frequently found in consumer goods, such as in trays from Yong (CH) at organic restaurants. The drugstore chain dm (DE) has been selling a comb made of WPC for about three years and recently added a second model.

Sixty commercial WPC and NFC granulate producers and dealers with web addresses and the plastics and fibres they use are listed in the latest edition of nova-Institute’s market study “Wood-Plastic Composites (WPC) and Natural Fibre Composites (NFC): European and Global Markets 2012 and Future Trends in Automotive and Construction“. The most commonly used plastics are PP, PE and PVC, but also bio-based materials such as bio PE and PLA are used. Wood fibres are used in many variations, main contenders in natural fibres are bamboo, flax and hemp. Many producers, global players and small and medium sized companies alike, are in business for the past few years. Only this newly developed professional infrastructure allows the consumer good manufacturers to use the new materials without technical risk. The higher-quality look more than compensates for slightly higher granulate prizes.