Banana is an excellent sustainable resource for textiles. A byproduct of food production, this matte, durable fibre has a high affinity for colour and can be weaved into many designs including tailored jackets and shirts, as well as soft furnishings. The Japanese have been using banana fibres for nearly 800 years, having perfected the art, the courser outer fibres of banana stalks are used for baskets and the finer inner fibres are reserved for kimonos.
Banana has a similar appearance to hemp and bamboo however they are slightly courser and naturally uneven, making them much more durable than bamboo and easier to spin. As a byproduct, banana fibre requires very little additional acreage, and is a logical solution to the billion tonnes of banana stems that go to waste annually. In 2012, the Textile Research Institute concluded that the Philippines alone could generate over 300,000 tonnes of fibre. Banana production is almost completely carbon neutral and, provided it is grown in the tropics, doesn’t require chemical aid. The fibres are biodegradable and highly wearable; banana is breathable, temperature regulating, greaseproof, water and heat resistant. Unlike hemp and bamboo, the extraction process for the efficient fibre does not require labour intensive crushing or time-consuming retting. Furthermore, recognizing the potential of bananas, eco-textile company Offset Warehouse partners with an NGO in Nepal to ensure banana fabric production relies upon local skills and ensure workers are fairly treated and paid. Banana production often operates within smaller farms, owned by the farmers, so it is much better for local communities.
Perhaps the only downside to banana fibre is that its use is currently triumphed over by cotton, owing to cotton’s cheap mass production. Yet banana fibre has a much lower environmental impact, and with a specialized machine for easy extraction now available, as well as growing awareness of the impact of resources, we can expect to see more banana products.
Increase demand for this super fibre to help aid its availability and discourage the use of cotton.