AWA Global Release Liner Conference 2018 – Review with pictures and video statement

AWA Global Release Liner Conference and Exhibition 2018 - A few hours before the opening in Amsterdam (Source: G&K)

THE NETHERLANDS • The 18th AWA Annual Global Release Liner Conference & Exhibition was held from 14th  to 16th  February in Amsterdam. This event was of great interest to the whole release liner industry. More than 160 participants discussed many topics which currently have impact on the release liner market, such as the latest market developments, the current situation regarding silicone and coating, the whole recycling issue and how the use of recycling programs could be expanded. Please find a review with pictures (at the very end) and a video with a comment by Corey Reardon from Alexander Watson Associates (AWA).

The 2018 conference covered presentations relating to the many diverse markets for release liners, from self-adhesive labels to medical and electronics applications. An added value item was the AWA global analysis of the markets’ status and outlook.


With “a warm welcome to the whole industry, especially to all newcomers to this industry” Corey M. Reardon, CEO and president of AWA Alexanders Watson Associates, opened the Global Release Liner Conference & Exhibition 2018. Although the majority of the audience was not new to the industry or this event, there were several attendees who joined the seminar for the first time. A tabletop exhibition completed the event.

The current status of the release liner industry is remarkable. In 2017, 39% of the release liner was produced for the Asian market, 27% for Europe and the same for North America and the remainder for Africa (3%) and South America (4%).

The main segment: labels

Labels are still the primary and main value segment for release liners, so the AWA market update says. The world’s label release liner market is growing at around 5% per year for all applications, almost half (49%) of the release liners are produced for the label industry worldwide, with “local” figures showing  45% in North America, 52% in Europe and 48% in Asia.

The release liner by substrate

Paper is still the main carrier – about 80% of the release liners covering all applications are paper-based and about 20% are filmic based. In 2017, glassine paper had the greatest share (36%), followed by polyolefin-coated paper (17%), clay coated paper (14%) and other papers (13%). PET film with 11% is the most popular film-based release liner, followed by PE film (6%) and PP film (6%).

The conference keynote presentation was given by Jeroen Diderich, vice president and general manager EMEA for Avery Dennison Label and Graphic Materials Group.

Industry’s key trends

While discussing key trends in the industry, Diderich identified the following features which are also relevant to the narrow web market:

  • Functionality of packaging and applications
  • Regulation and legislation
  • Sustainability
  • Digital growth
  • Premiumisation
  • E-commerce
  • Smart label solutions
  • Bio-based PE
  • Aqua opaque technology
  • BPA-free and phenol-free
  • IT Sensor Plus

The event included an annual real-time industry survey. Some results showed  that the majority thinks that sustainability is becoming a more relevant topic, however only about a quarter are actively involved in a recycling programme. The same was also covered by the Global Release Liner Industry Survey 2018, with 26% being active in a recycling programme.

It was also a good tool for the industry’s sentiment. The majority voted “heading to new heights” or “smooth sailing” instead of “a sinking ship” or “chugging along”.

“A highly engineered piece of trash”?

An remarkable point of view came from Dr Evert Smit, head of R&D and development technical products at Lohmann. He pointed out, that the industry has to work together in order to survive, but also regarding sustainability. A release liner, so Smit, is too often just a “highly engineered piece of trash”. After its use the liner is immediately waste. According to him, the industry can not rely on the past. His appeal to the industry is, to be different, not to be better. Companies have to create products, people or companies really need. “Co-creating the future is not a wish, but a must”, he states.

The first day closed with four take-away thoughts by Corey Reardon from AWA:

  • Use insights gained from customers to identify “problems” or “unmet needs”
  • Utilize new combinations of technology platforms to develop new solutions
  • Do the basics well and keep it simple
  • Full collaboration along the supply chain.

The Industry Leadership Award was given to Dr Wilhelm Munniger, technical director at Mondi Release Liner.

Panel dicussions

Several discussions were an integral part of the two day event, whether referring  to  the “leadership panel discussion” which included  AWA, Avery Dennison, Loparex, UPM and Elkem or the “”silicone and coating panel discussions” with representatives  from Loparex, Elkem Silicones, Evonik, Wacker Chemie and Dow Performance Silicones.

In addition, a great part of the conference included presentations relating to the so-called “voice of the customers”. These covered different applications of the “other side” of the market, especially non-label applications such as medical applications or self-adhesives tapes.

Day two

The second day started after a short introduction by Corey Reardon with a label association’s point of view. Mark Macaré from FINAT gave an update regarding release liner recycling. Waste: “what is available?” vs “what is collectable” – this has to be kept in mind but also the fact that the sustainability topic will not go away. In contrast, its relevance will grow and it is “not yet a problem”. Currently only 9% of the release liner waste worldwide is recycled. A bottleneck, said Macaré, is the collection. Nevertheless, the conclusion from FINAT was that  the industry has to think positively. It will not be problem, if the industry seizes the opportunities and not just treat the situation because there is  ”a lot of potential”.

Two different  solutions for recycling are currently available: 1) remove silicone from the release liner and then recycle or 2) shred liner and recycle into insulation material.

After a very interesting base material panel discussion, there were  further “voice of the customer” presentations and  a pulp and paper discussion panel, the Conference was closed by Corey Reardon: “see you hopefully in North Carolina in 2018!”

The global release liner events take place annually, alternating between Europe and USA. In 2019, the AWA Global Release Liner Conference & Exhibition will take place in North Carolina, USA.

Corey Reardon, CEO and president of AWA Alexanders Watson Associates, opened the Global Release Liner Conference & Exhibition 2018 (Source: G&K TechMedia)
For two and half days the conference including a table top exhibition took place from 14th to 16th February in Amsterdam, The Netherlands (Source: G&K)
Functionality of packaging and applications, sustainability and digital growth are just three key trends identified by Jeroen Diderich from Avery Dennison (Source: G&K)
Three panel discussions were part of the Release Liner Conference, starting with the “executive leadership panel discussion”. L.t.r.: Jeroen Diderich from Avery Dennison; Simon Medlay from Loparex, Jaakko Nikkila from UPM and Inge Gurbben-Stromnes from Elkem (Source: G&K)
A release liner = a highly engineered piece of trash? This phrase came from Dr Evert Smit from Lohmann, pointing out the industry’s need for cooperation (Source: G&K)
A integral part of the conference were the networking and coffee break as well as the table top exhibition (Source: AWA)
The rising prices are also an issue moving the release liner industry – that was just one personal impression during the “Silicone & Coating panel discussion”, moderated by (l.t.r.) Edwin Hortelano from Loparex and joined by Sean Duffy from Elkem Silicones, Stefan Stadtmüller from Evonik, Dr Hans Lauterschlager from Wacker Chemie and Charlie Zimmer from Dow Performance Silicones (Source: G&K)
The second day of the AWA Global release liner started with Mark Macaré from FINAT giving an update regarding release liner recycling (Source: G&K)
Winner of the AWA Release Liner Industry Leadership Award, Dr Wilhelm Munninger from Mondi, also led the …
… “Base material development & innovation panel discussion”. Participants were Mikko Rissanen from UPM, Fabrizio Gaiero from delfortgroup, Kirsi Seppalainen from Stora Enso – and the sole woman on stage - and Gunnar Sieber from Sappi. Next year the Global Release Liner Conference will take place in the North Carolina in the USA (Source: G&K)

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