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  • 1. Agricultural film | markets feature Increasingly sophisticated plastic film will to play a critical role in raising agricultural productivity, says Karla VittovaWrapping it upOver the past 60 years agricultural output and productiv- On the other hand, Italy will see the biggest decline as Producers suchity has increased significantly. Plastic film for silage, farmers move to using more durable (two- to three- as BASF andmulch and greenhouse applications has made a season films) from the one-season films currently that others havesubstantial contribution to this. The use of plastic films are widely used. made hugehas had a positive impact on the length of growing efforts toseasons, increased yields, earlier and higher quality Silage success develop morecrops, crop protection, the reduced use of agrochemicals Silage film is the largest segment of the market effectiveand efficiency of farm’s resources just to name a few. accounting for more than a half of all films used in additives for AMI estimates that almost 550,000 tonnes of Europe which is split fairly evenly between clamp silage agriculturalagricultural film were consumed in Europe in 2011. and stretch silage with a small share accounted for by filmExtending the growing season and increasing yields will silo bags/tubes. Production of silage occurs primarily inremain the main driver for the consumption of agricul- the countries of Northern Europe where there is greatertural films, although demand in tonnage terms is need for silage to feed livestock during the winterexpected to remain fairly stable over the next five years: months. Thus the Nordic region has the largest produc-modest growth for silage stretch film will be offset by tion, driven by market leaders Trioplast and Raniplast.static or declining amounts of mulch and greenhouse In general, trends in production of silage film tend tofilm. In contrast to most West European countries, be influenced by farm economics, herd size, EUPoland and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe subsidies, ecological issues, the development ofare expected to see appreciable growth, largely driven biomass crops and legislative changes. Althoughby improvements in agricultural practices in this area. demand for clamp silage is expected to benefit from thewww.filmandsheet.com  April 2012 | film & sheet EXTRUSION 11
  • 2. markets feature | Agricultural filmPOLYMER and, to a lesser extent, mulch film.DEMAND FORAGRICULTURAL LDPE, LLDPE and EVA are the most commonly usedFILMS IN EUROPE, polymers and together account for around 80% of2011 materials with the balance in metallocene, HDPE, reclaimed material, masterbatches and other additives. LDPE is used largely in mulch, clamp silage film and greenhouse film. LLDPE is the material of choice primarily in silage stretch film and in a smaller amount in mulch film for better tear resistance properties. EVA increases durability of greenhouse film and ensures good clarity and light transmission properties. Innovation in formulation The main focus of the industry today is to extend theSource: AMI growing season and raise yield by developing better performing films (thermal control, light assimilation, dramatic growth in biomass ensilage, which is more photo selective films etc.) and extend durability from likely to be stored in clamps, penetration of silage current one- or two-season films to films lasting up to stretch film is likely to increase due to the demands to seven seasons for greenhouse film, and nine seasons improve the quality of fodder. for specialist mulch films. Achieving higher yields on shrinking land at lower Polymer producers have tried hard to improve costs to feed a growing population has presented great agricultural film properties by adjusting formulations, opportunities for the greenhouse and mulch film adding EVA for better tack characteristics, additives to market. Greenhouse film represents almost 30% of the increase puncture and tear resistance, UV-stability and European agricultural film market. Classic greenhouse other special additives (such as bird-repellent additives films account for almost a half of the greenhouse film to stop birds damaging bales). Colour masterbatches market; macro tunnels account for around 30%, while have also recorded rapid growth in demand and are the remaining 20% are low tunnel films and floating increasingly used in agricultural films to improve covers. There is expected to be a small decline in the special photoselective and thermal properties of silage, overall demand for greenhouse films due to the trend to mulch and greenhouse films. replace one-season films with more durable two- and Increasingly it has been a challenge to achieve three-season films. longer durability of film while addressing an issue of Mulch film represents 20% of the agricultural film plastic waste in agriculture by continuing efforts to demand. The need to produce more crops on a smaller reduce film thickness and increase recycling rates. area will drive the consumption of mulch films forward Further downgauging is feasible up to a point when it in less mature markets. Overall, though, this market is does not compromise performance or the economics of expected to show a small overall decline mainly due to film production. replacement by biodegradable types. Pre-stretched films offer an interesting solution for While Spain and Italy are the largest markets overall, farmers using silage stretch film. They are supplied at 19 accounting for 40% of demand, this is primarily because micron thickness (24% less than conventional wrap) of their use of greenhouse films and mulch films (used which enables each roll to contain 500m of film more or within the greenhouse). Silage film demand is more 10 more bales to wrap which offers cost and time savings. evenly spread across the continent as livestock rearing One of the most recent innovations in the agricul- is more widespread – but the countries of Northern tural film business and a possible solution for the Europe tend to have the higher demand because of the combination of thin and durable films are high barrier colder winters and larger dairy production. films known as virtually impermeable films (VIF) and The 10 largest agricultural film producers account totally impermeable films (TIF). VIF is usually 3-5 layer for more than a half of the films produced in Europe. film with a nylon layer in a polyethylene sandwich and While the Mediterranean producers, Armando Alvarez, its use is mainly in mulch and fumigation films. TIF, film TPM, Agriplast, Eiffel and Plastika Kritis account for the where a barrier against oxygen is almost absolute, majority of the greenhouse film output, the Nordic and claims to offer superb performance to silage producers west European producers such as Trioplast, Rani Plast, who require longer preservation periods (such as in the BPI, RKW and Hyplast produce primarily silage film Nordic regions where winters are long) but with only12 film & sheet EXTRUSION | April 2012 www.filmandsheet.com
  • 3. Blown Film Innovation for today & tomorrow. OUR SCREW TECHNOLOGY LEADS THE INDUSTRY in mixing, melt temperature stability & pressure; the basis for excellent film. Vertex, Centrex, and Pro Cone dies provide precision and performance for a competitive edge. High-speed winders with fully integrated roll automation that bring MDO units to full economic productivity. Visit us: CPP Expo, Booth #202 Chinaplas, Booth #E1A31 Visit us at: www.davis-standard.com36 South Adamsville Road | Bridgewater, NJ 08807-0671 USA | Tel: (908) 722-6000 www.davis-standard.com
  • 4. markets feature | Agricultural film to these requirements, by additive, masterbatch and polymer producers such as BASF, Cytec, Grafe, Kafrit Industries, Polimeri Europa, Repsol, Rohm & Haas, Techmer and Total Petrochemicals. As a result, the market has seen more effective additives (UV stabilis- ers, UV absorbers, antifog and anti-dripping agents), materials (EVA, mLLDPE, ETFE, bipolymers) and technologies (multilayer acrylic-based film, barrier films, photoselective films, heat control in tropic regions and improved light transmission). Recycle or biodegrade? In general, agricultural films, and mulch films are difficult to recycle due to the extent of contamination by soil and a multilayer structure consisting of various materials. Charges for recycling of agricultural films are also likely to be more expensive than other flexibles. Now, more than ever, the industry is looking into the benefits offered by biodegradable materials. The concept suggests that such film will degrade in soil after its service life with no effect on the next season’s crop. Internationally accepted standard EN 13432 defines how quickly and to what extent biodegradable plastics should degrade under commercial composting conditions. At present there is no standard at the European level to define conditions for films degrading in fields. However, the French standard NF U 52001 isConsumption of four layers of plastics wrapped around each bale as preparing to include criteria for degradation of agricul-agricultural opposed to 6-8 layers recommended for conventional tural mulch films in soil as opposed to compostingfilm in Europe silage stretch film. TIF is usually a five-layer film (PE/ conditions. For now, oxo-degradable plastics are notvaries widely adhesives/EVOH/adhesives/PE) and claims to save compliant with either of the two standards. more than 10% of total cost of making silage thanks to Although biodegradable mulch films can be up to reduced spoilage and 30% less plastic required for four times more expensive than conventional films, recycling. Future use of barrier films in greenhouse and there is an argument that when taking into account mulch applications could potentially result in up to 50% labour cost and other costs associated with the lower doses of pesticides and fumigants used in fields collection of films, transport and recycling, they films thanks to improved chemical retention properties. still offer cost advantages. Similarly innovation in this market are films made of The challenge remains to fine-tune the time of ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) and acrylic-based degradation and adjust it to different climatic condi- films. The ETFE film is a cast film with a gauge of 100 tions. This varies geographically across Europe, and microns for greenhouse applications and claims also depends on whether the mulch film is used in benefits such as better heat retention properties than greenhouses or on open fields. The intensity of sun glass or PE, durability of 10-15 years, being lighter (1% radiation and the amount of rainfall also affect the of the weight) and cheaper than glass, flame retardant speed of degradation. In addition, the service life of and self-cleaning due to its very smooth surface. mulch film varies by which plant it is used for as the Acrylic-based films claim to have even better properties mulch film needs to last as long as the crop. If it breaks than the ETFE films. The limiting factor is price, which down too early, the film sticks to the crop and damages growers are seldom willing to pay – meaning that the it and also fails to protect it from weeds. films are more likely to find their use in constructions Material and additive suppliers have made consider- such as large arboretums, commercial gardens and able efforts to improve performance of biodegradable parks, which used to be strongholds of glass rather plastics used in mulch films. Mirel, produced by Telles, than PE films. is an aliphatic polyester material made of corn sugar There have been significant efforts made to respond which has chemical resistance similar to PET – but is14 film & sheet EXTRUSION | April 2012 www.filmandsheet.com
  • 5. Leading thefield….in highperformancefilm slittingtechnology Atlas is introducing the next generation of more compact slitting & rewinding solutions in web widths from 2.5 to 10.4 metres (98 – 410 ins.). The new Atlas CW3600 secondary film slitter is part of a new technology platform which delivers higher efficiency, more productivity, higher quality rewind reels, reduced noise levels and more effective operator control systems. • Wireless rewind arm positioning • Direct drive web path rollers • Speeds up to 1,200 m/min. • Web widths up to 3,600 mm • Minimum slit width 200 mm • More environmentally friendly With more than 35 years of experience, over 1000 installations worldwide and a global SEE US AT network of customer service & support operations, Atlas leads the field in high performance film slitting technology. SEE US AT STAND12-D67 STAND E1-T51 Atlas Converting North America, Inc., Atlas Converting Equipment Ltd., A.C.E. (Shanghai) Trading Co. Ltd. Charlotte, NC 28273, USA Bedford MK42 7XT, UK Shanghai 200120, China T: +1 704 587 2450 T: +44 1234 852553 T: +86 21 6886 2501 sales.usa@atlasconverting.com sales.atlas@atlasconverting.com sales.atlas@atlasconverting.com www.atlasconverting.com Rewind to the Future
  • 6. markets feature | Agricultural film is one of the main bioplastic producers in Europephoto: BPI producing material based on a PLA (polylactic acid) blend which is a mixture of co-polyester, PLA and other biodegradable polymers and additives. The material does not contain any starch or starch derivatives, making the final film less sensitive to climatic variations and degrades more slowly. The initial tests with bioplastics or oxo-degradable materials have been made with major European film producers such as BPI, Barbier in France, Tredegar Film Products and Oerlemans Plastic in the Nether- lands, Spain’s Armando Alvarez and the TPM group and PATI of Italy. More information Information in this article comes from an Applied Market Information study, The Market for Agricultural Films in Europe. More information can be obtained by Silage film is able to degrade in soil within six months, without contacting Karla Vittova (kv@amiplastics.com). an important affecting the next season’s crop. AMI also organises an annual Agricultural Film segment of the Clariant makes masterbatch for biodegradable conference. The next one takes place on 6-8 November market plastics and other agricultural films, including IR 2012 in Madrid, Spain. For more information contact absorbers, anti-fog and photoselective. FKuR Kunststoff Rocio Martinez (rmm@amiplastics.com) or click here. Follow us on... Be the first to know when we publish a new edition, plus updates on our conferences and useful links. www.twitter.com/plasticsworld
  • 7. Agritech-Israel 2012, Maxidom Pavillion Stand #154 TLV, Israel 15-17/05/2012Tosaf Global Services:www.tosaf.com | Tel: +972 (9) 8984604 | tosafcom@tosaf.com