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According to a recently published study by leading industry consultants, Applied Market Information Ltd (AMI Consulting), innovation, in the period through to 2016, is pushing up sales of polypropylene in Europe in the face of fierce inter-polymer competition and slow economic growth.
It says packaging applications will account for the largest volume of growth despite weak consumer spending and competitive pressures. PP is losing share to HDPE in caps and closures and under pressure from recycled HDPE in transit packaging. Recycled PET is also impacting the growth prospects for PP for instance in thin walled packaging. Despite these pressures PP is gaining sales via the development of new grades of resin offering high clarity and fast cycling and via the ingenuity of processors developing solutions with high levels of consumer appeal such as in mould labelling.
Automotive will see some of the fastest growth driven by penetration gains. PP producers, compounders and processors have come together to offer automotive companies solutions which substantially reduce their costs. The fast uptake of long fibre PP is an example of this cooperation: LFT PP is used in a number of semi-structural applications but rather than being a direct replacement for existing materials, it requires substantial redesign hence the need for material supplier, processor and car companies to collaborate in re-engineering modules. Not only does PP help reduce the cost of cars, but also it provides excellent opportunities for light-weighting which is a key objective in car design.
The textile segment has had a difficult time since the downturn in construction activity. Residential construction was first hit and is now showing some early signs of recovery, whereas civil construction was hit more recently. Generally PP non-wovens have prospered better than other PP textiles.
Europe remains the cradle of technical development of PP. In general, European producers have done an excellent job in shifting their businesses towards higher value applications as have PP processors. This success can be measured in the fact that Europe remained a net exporter of PP resin in 2011 despite the huge build up in capacity in the Middle East.
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