For thousands of years, jute (a type of natural vegetable fiber) has been used to make products such as rope, twine, hessian cloth, and much more. Jute leaves and roots have even been used as food and a medicine in parts of Bangladesh and India.
Despite its well established past, jute still hasn’t realized its full potential on the worldwide market - especially in the developed countries. Hopefully this will change.
Here are 4 applications where jute has enormous potential.
Demand for paper keeps growing every year. In 2003, the Certified Forest Products Council said:
Worldwide demand for paper – the single largest use of wood fibre – is five times what it was in the 1950s. This number is expected to double again over the next 50 years.
The problem here is that, more and more trees are being cut down to meet this increasing demand. Unless something is done about this (and fast), we’ll run out of forests.
Jute can be used to make high quality and specialized paper. Jute plants grow extremely fast, and produces 20 to 40 ton of dry stem per hectare. In comparison, the fastest growing trees take between 10 and 14 years to mature. Also, trees will only produce between 8 to 12 ton, per hectare, annually.
Although jute paper is being produced, it’s in very small quantities compared with paper from trees. More jute paper please!
Jute can be used as a reinforcing agent in plastics to create a jute reinforced composite. It can be used as a more environmentally friendly version of fiberglass. It can be used in the packaging industry, the automobile industry, and it can also be used as construction material.
The packaging industry is responsible for around 30% of plastic consumption in the developed countries. It is also responsible for over 20% of the total solid waste and 3.7% of energy consumption. Using a jute alternative would significantly reduce the impact of these plastics on the environment.
Jute could be used in particleboard instead of wood. Particleboard (also referred to as “chipboard”), is a wood product made from wood particles such as wood chips, sawmill shavings, and/or sawdust. Jute fiber could just as easily be used instead of wood particles to provide a more environmentally friendly product.
Jute Geotextile (JGT) has proven very effective at addressing various soil-related issues in the civil engineering industry. JGT can be used to assist with:
- Protection of slopes in road and railway embankments, bridge approaches, terraces in hilly terrains, etc.
- Stabilisation of sand dunes, mine spoils, etc.
- Promotion of quick vegetation in areas denuded by things like cyclones, earthquakes, landslides, etc.
- Stabilisation of waste dumps.
- Prevention of reflection cracks
- Protection of riverbanks
- Strengthening of roads
The benefits of Jute Geotextile over other geotextiles include:
- Price - cheaper than other geotextiles (synthetic or natural)
- Easy availability and transportation
- Superior drapability
- Greater moisture retention capacity
There are many other geotextile solutions - some with natural fibers, others with synthetic. Out of the geotextiles, jute is one of the most compelling. However, it currently has a very small market share of this industry.
Hopefully the benefits of jute will become more widely recognized and we can start seeing some changes for the better.