Posts Tagged ‘natural fiber’

What is Jute?

Sunday, February 3rd, 2008

Photo of jute bag
Jute is a type of vegetable fiber used to make items such as rope, twine, carpet, rugs, hessian cloth, and much more. It’s leaves and roots have also been used as food and medicine in some parts of India and Bangladesh.

Jute plants come in two varieties; White Jute (Corchorus capsularis) and Tossa Jute (Corchorus olitorius). Jute is a flowering plant, and can grow to around 10 feet tall.

Jute fiber is quite strong, and it doesn’t fibrillate or bleach easily. It is one of the cheapest natural fibers available, and has a wide range of applications on top of the aforementioned ones. Jute can be used to make paper, geotextile, a fiberglass alternative, particleboard, and more.

I wrote about some of these uses of jute, as well as the potential it has in these areas.

Environmental Benefits of Jute

Jute has many environmental benefits.

For starters, it’s carbon dioxide neutral, improves soil quality, and it has a high biological efficiency. Products made from jute are 100% biodegradable, recyclable, and can be easily disposed without causing environmental hazards.

Here’s more detail on the environmental benefits of jute.

Where can I buy Jute Products?

You might be able to find jute products at your local organic clothing or homeware store. There are a lot of jute bags around for example.

Online, there many websites offering jute products but it’s hard to find one offering online purchases. Amazon.com do have a range of jute products. You could try their jute bags, or their apparel section (which also has some bags).

If you’re a retailer, you could try the Jute Industry website.

The Exciting Potential of Jute

Saturday, February 2nd, 2008

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.

Jute Paper

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!

Fiberglass Alternative

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.

Particleboard

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.

Geotextiles

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
  • Filtration

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.

The Environmental Benefits of Jute

Saturday, February 2nd, 2008

Jute is a versatile, natural fiber that has been used for thousands of years to make things such as rope, twine, hessian bags, rugs, and much more.

While it’s still being used extensively around the world, it’s not as popular as it could (or should) be - especially considering its outstanding environmental benefits. Given the increasing focus on environmental issues these days, jute might just be in for a crack at the bigtime.

Here are the major environmental benefits of jute:

  • Jute cleans the air: Studies indicate that, one hectare of jute plants can consume up to 15 tons of carbon dioxide and release 11 tons of oxygen during the jute growing season (about 100 days).
  • Less fertilizer, herbicides, & pesticides: Relatively modest amounts of fertilizer, herbicide, and pesticides are required for jute cultivation - especially in comparison to cotton.
  • Improves soil conditions: During jute cultivation, large portions of leaves and roots remain with the soil. This results in improved soil fertility.
  • Improves other crops: When jute is rotated with other crops, it can improve the health of those other crops and reduce their risk of attracting pests and disease.
  • Jute has high biological efficiency: Jute can be harvested within 4 to 6 months, and can produce between 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.
  • Sound agricultural practices: Studies have found that typical jute agricultural practices are environmentally sound - they cause minimal impact to the natural enviroment.
  • Biodegradability: Jute products are 100% biodegradable and recyclable. They can also be disposed of without causing environmental hazards.

As long as the processing of jute is done in an eco-friendly way, jute has enormous potential as an eco-friendly alternative to its mainstream rivals such as cotton and trees.

How “Eco Friendly” is your Grocery Bag?

Sunday, January 13th, 2008

Most of us are pretty well aware that plastic grocery bags are a big “no no” when it comes to helping the environment. And more people are realizing that paper bags are not much better.

So, if we shouldn’t use plastic bags or paper bags to do our shopping, what should we use?

That probably depends on who you talk to. I think you’ll be off to a good start if you can find a bag that’s:

  • Eco friendly (environmentally friendly)
  • Reusable
  • Large

Although they are reusable, plastic bags aren’t eco friendly. They’re not very big either, which means you need to use more of them.

Paper bags are actually worse than plastic bags when it comes to the environment. Yes, they can be reused. And they are usually larger than plastic bags, but the damage they do to the environment makes them a much less attractive option.

Best Eco Friendly Bags?

Eco friendly grocery bags are those that have a minimum impact on the natural environment. This means in both the construction of the bag, as well as the disposal of the bag.

So, here are some of the things I would look for in an eco friendly bag:

  • Requires less energy to be made than other bags
  • Fully biodegradable (preferably can fully decompose within 6 months or less - inline with international standards such as EN 13432)
  • Preferably made from a natural fiber (such as hemp, jute etc)
  • Durable enough to be reused many times (say, more than 2 - 3 years under normal use)
  • Large enough to not need too many of them

My post, Eco Friendly Grocery Bags, suggests some good product types to look for.

Larger Bags are Better

Another benefit of many eco-friendly grocery bags is that they are usually much larger than the typical plastic bag. Therefore, you can fit more groceries into them - you need less bags. Less bags means less energy to construct them and less bags to biodegrade.

Benefits of Reusable Grocery Bags

Even if you can’t find an eco friendly bag, you should get a grocery bag that you can reuse over and over again. If you can reuse your grocery bag for 2 or 3 years, then think of all the energy being saved. Every time you reuse your grocery bag, that’s one less bag that has to be produced.

For example, if you reuse your grocery bag over 3 years, and do your grocery shopping say, 4 times per week, that’s 624 less bags that have to be produced. If you use 2 grocery bags each time, that’s 1,248 less bags being produced. And that’s assuming the non-reusable bag is the same size. Most plastic grocery bags are much smaller than their eco-friendly/reusable counterparts (such as green bags, hemp bags, jute bags etc).

Summary

As with most things man-made, it’s hard finding anything that doesn’t have some level of impact on the environment. Bags made from natural fibers are usually best. And look for a bag you can reuse over and over again - for more than 2 or 3 years. That’s a lot of groceries that won’t require another plastic or paper bag.