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Glossary

Banana Fibre

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Definition

Banana fibre is a natural, sustainable fibre extracted from the pseudostems (i.e. false or fake stems that are composed of tightly packed leaf bases, serving as support structures) of banana plants. Banana fiber is considered an eco-friendly material due to its renewable source and minimal environmental impact, as a byproduct of banana production for food.

The most common species to make banana fibre is Musa textilis (also known as abacá or Manila hemp) and its resulting textile is commonly called abacá fibre.

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History and Origin

history of banana fibres

Historical Usage: Banana fibre, historically known as leaf fibre, boasts a rich legacy deeply intertwined with the cultural and practical aspects of various societies. Indigenous communities, especially in Southeast Asia and the Philippines, have woven banana fibres into textiles for centuries. These fibres were utilized to create traditional clothing, mats, and various everyday items.

The historical usage reflects its role in the craftsmanship and cultural practices of these communities, where the plant's versatility made it a valuable resource for sustainable living.

Origin: The geographical origin of banana fibre lies in Southeast Asia, particularly in regions where the abaca plant (Musa textilis) is native. The Philippines holds a prominent place in the origin of banana fibre, with historical records indicating its use as far back as the 13th century.

As trade routes expanded, the knowledge and use of banana fibre spread to other parts of the world. The plant's adaptability to tropical climates led to its cultivation in various regions, contributing to the global dissemination of banana fibre and its enduring cultural significance.

banana plant, native to South East Asia

72,000
Did you know?

metric tons of abaca fibre was produced in 2016 in the Philippines, which constitutes 87.5% of abaca fibre worldwide. The production of abaca is concentrated mainly in three countries: the Philippines, Ecuador, and Costa Rica.

Properties

Properties of banana fibre

Physical Properties

  • Density: Banana fibre exhibits a moderate density, contributing to its lightweight and comfortable feel in textiles, it ensures that fabrics are comfortable to wear and do not feel excessively heavy.
  • Hardness: While not inherently hard, banana fibres possess a natural firmness, providing structure and durability to the woven material.

Mechanical Properties

  • Tensile Strength: One of the notable qualities is its impressive tensile strength. It rivals traditional natural fibres like jute and flax, making it suitable for applications requiring robustness.
  • Elasticity: Banana fibres have a degree of elasticity, allowing them to flex and adapt without losing their structural integrity.
  • Noise Insulation: The natural acoustic properties of banana fiber make it suitable for applications in noise insulation.

Chemical Properties

  • Cellulose: Cellulose is a major component of banana fibre, constituting a significant portion of its composition. Cellulose is a complex carbohydrate and a structural component of plant cell walls. In such material, cellulose provides strength and rigidity, contributing to overall durability.
  • Hemicellulose: Hemicellulose is another important component found in banana fibres. It is a branched polymer of sugars that plays a role in the structure of plant cell walls. Hemicellulose, along with cellulose, contributes to strength and resilience.
  • Lignin: Lignin is a complex polymer that provides rigidity to plant cell walls. While these contain lignin, its proportion is lower compared to some other natural fibres. The presence of lignin contributes to the overall toughness without compromising its flexibility and textile properties.
Did you know?

Banana fibre is made mostly by Musa textilies species, which is different from other fruit-bearing Banana species (Musa acuminata, Musa balbisiana, and their descendants). The species harvested for fibre does not produce edible fruit. Hence, the current production of banana fibre has no impact on food production.

Production and Harvesting

Growth

Banana fibre is derived from the pseudostems of banana plants, particularly the abaca plant (Musa textilis), which is native to Southeast Asia and is commonly cultivated in tropical regions worldwide.

The growth of banana plants involves a process known as "suckering," where new shoots emerge from the base of the plant. These shoots mature into pseudostems, and it is from the layers of these pseudostems that the fibres are extracted.

Harvesting techniques

The harvesting techniques of banana fibre are a delicate balance between ensuring the sustainability of the plant and obtaining high-quality fibres. Typically, banana plants are not uprooted during harvesting; instead, individual stems or pseudostems are carefully cut allowing the plant to continue growing.

Skilled workers play a crucial role in the process, selectively choosing mature pseudostems based on specific criteria, modern techniques may involve the use of sensors and imaging technologies to assess fibre’s potential.

Processing

Processing: Extracted fibres undergo meticulous cleaning to remove impurities, followed by drying through natural or mechanical methods. Post-drying, fibres are twisted or spun into yarn for enhanced usability.

The final stage involves weaving or braiding, where processed banana fibres are transformed into textiles, ropes, or diverse products.

The traditional t'nalak cloth of the T'boli dreamweavers are made from abacá fibers

Environmental Impact

bananatex (wikipedia)

Low impact

Banana fibre is celebrated for its sustainability, stemming from the renewable and abundant nature of banana plants. The non-destructive harvesting process ensures the plant's continued growth, aligning with sustainable practices in material sourcing.

Additionally, banana cultivation often requires minimal pesticides and fertilizers, contributing to its low-impact profile.


Biodegradability

Banana fibre exhibits significant biodegradability, breaking down naturally over time without leaving harmful residues.

In its purest form can generally decompose within 6 months to 2 years (This estimate considers factors like temperature, moisture, and microbial activity that influence the biodegradation process)

Compostability

When disposed of properly, banana fibre can decompose in composting environments, enriching the soil with organic matter and completing a sustainable lifecycle.

When disposed of properly, banana fibre can decompose in composting environments, enriching the soil with organic matter and completing a sustainable lifecycle.

Applications and Usage

Mainly known for textiles, banana fibre is woven into fabrics for clothing and accessories, offering a cruelty-free and environmentally conscious option. In construction, it is employed for reinforcing concrete structures, providing a sustainable alternative to traditional materials. In textiles, banana fibre is woven into fabrics for clothing and accessories, offering a cruelty-free and environmentally conscious option.

The versatility of banana fibre extends to paper production, handicrafts, and even automotive components and serves as a reinforcement material in combination with other matrices like polymers. The natural acoustic properties of banana fibre make it suitable for applications in noise insulation.

The table below compares banana fibre with other commonly used materials in textiles. The material is highly versatile as it can be blended with other fibres (cotton, linen) for superior characteristics.

Comparison of banana fibre and other alternatives

References

1. Banana agro-waste as an alternative to cotton fibre in textile applications. Yarn to fabric: An ecofriendly approach - https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0926669022011700

2. Plant Fibers, their Composites, and Application - 2022

3. Tribology of Natural Fiber Polymer Composites - 2020

4. Sustainable Fibres and Textiles - 2017

5. Biodegradable and Sustainable Fibres - 2005