The abaca plant is a close relative to banana and native to the Philippines. It has a fine, lustrous texture and produces a remarkably long fibre of up to 3 metres. Due to its porous quality, it is mostly used for tea bags and paper. The strength of abaca makes it suited to ropes and it is even used by Mercedes Benz to make reinforced, recyclable amalgams for cars.
Growing abaca is beneficial to the environment as it promotes biodiversity and prevents soil erosion. The waste products may also be used as a fertilizer. A recent innovation has seen abaca used to make denim. Much more sustainable than cotton, abaca would make great jeans as it is durable, strong and highly breathable. Although abaca denim is costly at the moment, as its development is at a primary stage, it would become more economical if mass-produced.
The process for extracting abaca is similar to that of other bast fibres but somewhat more labour intensive, since it must be obtained by scraping the fibres from the leaf sheath around the trunk.
There is a growing demand for the use of abaca in textiles and soft furnishings, including mattresses, as well as its most popular application in paper.