Sustainable Fibres: What Is Abaca and How Is It Used?

Sustainable Fibres: What Is Abaca and How Is It Used?

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I’ve grown up uncovered to abaca, a sort of tree that carefully resembles a banana plant. I’ve performed with its fibres, I’ve watched my Papa make ropes out of it and even weave stunning solihiya hammocks and chairs. I’ve grown up utilizing abaca baggage and, at sure factors of my childhood, worn garments and slippers made from abaca for college dances and actions. While I’ve appreciated the fantastic thing about its fibres, and the numerous merchandise that may be made out of it by means of the years, I need to admit that it is just now that I really realised its wonders. I’m so proud that the common-or-garden abaca I’ve been taking part in with in my childhood is getting used all around the world for sustainability functions.

What is abaca?

Abaca’s scientific identify is Musa textilis. It’s also referred to as Manila hemp, Cebu hemp, or Davao hemp. Unfortunately, it has by no means been rightfully known as Bicol hemp, from the area that produces probably the most abaca within the Philippines. But simply to be clear, abaca is totally different from hemp. Rather, it’s a shut relative of the banana tree and belongs to the Musaceae household. It has overlapping leaves on its fleshy stalks and it’s in these stalks the place the abaca fibres are obtained. Abaca is wanted as a result of it’s robust, versatile, and immune to being broken by saltwater (very like the very resilient folks of Bicol who stay robust regardless of dwelling within the Philippines’ storm belt, though that could be a story for an additional day).

How is it grown and processed?

This crop grows finest in well-draining loamy soils. Abaca is propagated by planting mature rootstock and it’s often achieved initially of the wet season. It takes 18 to 24 months earlier than the plant will be harvested and used as uncooked materials for various functions.

Processing will be achieved by hand or machine. It includes pulling off the plant’s outer layer from its petiole after which scraping the pulpy materials to have the ability to get to the fibre strands. These strands are then dried both mechanically or below the solar. After this, they’re cleaned and sorted based on the market wants.

The abaca fibres come in several colours. They will be white, brown, purple, crimson or black. It all will depend on the number of the crop and the place the stalks are positioned. If you need the strongest fibres, you will get them from the plant’s outer covers.

What is abaca used for?

Today, abaca is used for specialty papers equivalent to foreign money notes, tea and low baggage, vacuum baggage, cigarette filter paper, sausage casing paper, and high-quality writing paper. Japan, one of many prime importers of this fibre, makes use of abaca for his or her yen banknotes. Abaca can also be used to make twines, ropes, and fishing traces and nets.

Reformation Marina Basket Tote Bag.
Reformation Abaca Mini Eco Tote.

There can also be a rising demand for utilizing sustainable fibres within the trend trade the place Manila hemp is used for clothes and residential decors. Many fashion companies are actually realising the significance of utilizing sustainable fibres for making garments. It is paving the way in which for using hemp and different eco-friendly supplies for use in clothes manufacturing.

Terranova Papers in Spain turns abaca fibres into espresso filter paper, tea bag paper, battery pasting tissue paper, adhesive tapes, and sachet porous paper for rodenticides. The firm is dedicated to sustainability and therefore the particular use of this eco-friendly fibre. By selecting abaca, they’ll “promote the accountable administration of the world’s forests.” They are additionally assured that the merchandise that they provide are socially and environmentally accountable.

Simor makes use of this sustainable fibre for making clothes in addition to ornamental and tabletop equipment. You’ll be amazed how aesthetically interesting their completed merchandise are from their textile, furnishings, to fixtures. No surprise, they’ve been in enterprise for greater than 4 a long time now and nonetheless going robust – similar to the abaca plant.

Because of its energy and size, abaca fibre is now getting used within the automotive trade for sure automotive elements. For instance, Mercedes Benz has opted to make use of abaca as an alternative of glass fibres for the underbody cowl of their Klasse mannequin. According to the posh automotive model, they had been capable of save as a lot as 60% of power since they began utilizing abaca fibres. This signifies that their manufacturing course of is extra environment-friendly with considerably lowered CO2 emissions. These are simply a number of the firms in several industries that use abaca fibres as uncooked supplies for the merchandise that they provide.


Why is abaca sustainable?

Abaca is a sustainable fibre as a result of it may be made into varied merchandise that reply the current wants and calls for in our society with out having to compromise environmental requirements. Its manufacturing has a low environmental impression and it’s a renewable useful resource; will be grown and harvested with little or no chemical processing. It is an efficient factor that there’s a rising desire for this fibre since it’s recognised because the “strongest among all natural fibres on the earth.” It is alleged to have superior qualities over different supplies equivalent to man-made fibres like plastics and artificial supplies. This explains why this uncooked materials is now being utilized in varied industries as talked about earlier.

It is worthy to notice the environmental benefits of the abaca plant. Its water-holding capability prevents soil erosion, landslides and floods. It protects farming communities from attainable disasters. Since abaca may also be planted together with different crops and crops, equivalent to coconut palms, it promotes biodiversity rehabilitation. This is the alternative of monoculture plantations that destroy the vitamins of the soil and result in using dangerous chemical compounds that pollute groundwater provides, in the end destroying the pure ecosystems round it. Even the waste supplies of abaca manufacturing are utilized by farmers as natural fertilisers which nonetheless advantages the atmosphere.

Related Post: 10 Sustainable Start-Ups in Asia Helping to Forge a Greener Future

Filipinos spreading out abaca (manila hemp) to dry early within the early twentieth century. Photo: John Tewell.

For the native communities the place abaca is produced, it’s a supply of livelihood for hundreds of households. In the Philippines, this crop is cultivated by 122,758 farmers. It additionally helps increase the Philippine economic system with export earnings reaching a mean of $97.1 million per yr, making it one of many prime agricultural merchandise of the archipelago nation.

Abaca exports

The Philippines is the main producer of abaca worldwide, supplying nearly 90% of the worldwide demand for this sustainable fibre. From October to December 2020 alone, the nation produced 17.61 thousand metric tonnes of abaca fibre. Most of the merchandise which might be exported are abaca pulp, yarns, cordage, fibre crafts and uncooked fibre. The main importers of abaca merchandise are Europe, the US and Japan.

The Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (PhilFIDA) is answerable for growing the nation’s abaca trade and ensures that it could actually “meet the worldwide calls for for renewable and environment-friendly supplies.” There is steady analysis and improvement to have the ability to produce high-yielding and disease-resistant crops and enhance the automation of fibre extraction to make it much less labor-intensive. PhilFIDA can also be working to acquire global certification so prospects are assured that Philippine abaca is not only made from the best high quality of fibres but in addition compliant with worldwide sustainability requirements. This certification can also be required by some firms earlier than they interact in commerce and commerce with native farmers. PhilFIDA can also be conducting farm enlargement and rehabilitation applications in order that extra areas will be concerned in abaca manufacturing. Through this, the Philippines will have the ability to meet the rising demand for this sustainable fibre particularly now that varied industries are realising its potential.

The Future of this ‘Future Fibre

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization calls this plant the “future fibre.” And it is extremely apt certainly. With extra firms being dedicated to sustainability, they’re discovering new methods to make use of this robust and versatile sustainable fibre. The prospects are limitless. Abaca is probably going for use in various industries and I personally couldn’t be extra happy as a result of it’s good for the atmosphere, and it offers extra households in native communities, particularly my hometown, the possibility to dwell higher lives and have a brighter future.

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Cover picture by way of Reformation.

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