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Plastic films account for 40 million tons out of total consumption of 165 million tons in ...

Plastic films are possibly the single largest application responsible for the highest consumption of plastics. These films, even at such high volumes, grow well and constituted almost 25% of the total consumption of plastics in 2004. Polyethylene and Polypropylene are the two polymers that are most converted into films accounting for almost 34 million tons out of the total of 40 million tons consumption for films. In fact, these two polymers dominate the film market with almost 85% of the total consumption. Both these materials continue to grow more than the World GDP growth, mainly due to increased demand from improving standards of living, particularly in the developing regions of the World. Europe and North America each account for about 30% of the total world consumption of plastic films.

There are many material types used in films from single layer polymers to multilayer structures with tie layers and copolymers. Multilayers permit film structures to have barrier or strength. Bi orientation of polypropylene has produced better properties and more valuable materials. High performance plastics are also being used in technical /industrial applications such as telectronics.
Blown extrusion was the first process used to make films of polyethylene. Films can be made via a number of converting processes: extrusion, coextrusion, casting, extrusion coating, extrusion laminating and metallising. These processes have advantages and disadvantages depending on the material type in use, the width and thickness of film required.

Films are mainly used in packaging for foodstuffs, but there are also substantial market segments for medical, electronic, automotive and construction applications. Specific applications include decorative wrap, form-fill-seal, blood bags, flexible printed circuits, bed sheeting, diapers and in-mould decorating of car parts (to replace painting and provide a more durable surface coating). Carrier bags and garbage bags are big markets, though there are environmental concerns about the use of plastic bags. In construction, films are used in glazing, damp proofing, tarpaulins, geomembranes and similar applications.

PE and PP are the main materials used in packaging films. PET is primarily used in magnetic, optics and telectronics. PVC is found in consumer goods and medical applications, while PVB is mainly used in automotive and construction applications as glazing protection. Multimaterial films account for around 7 million tons of the films produced, with around 95% of this going into packaging applications.

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