The diverse use of natural fibres
Natural fibers are made out of natural resources whereas chemical fibers are produced synthetically ('man made'). There are natural fibers with animal origin such as wool and silk, but plant fibers account for the largest share in natural fibers.
Plant fibers are either elongated epidermis cells (hairs) or sclerenchyma fibers coming from different plant parts such as the shoot, leaf or fruit. Hence, one can differentiate between bast fibers, leaf fibers, seed fibers and fruit fibers. Cotton fibers for example are the epidermal hairs of the seed, whereas jute fibers are sclerenchyma fibers of the plant`s shoot.
In terms of production, cotton is the most popular fiber followed by jute and flax (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, FAO).
There are numerous uses for plant fibers. Fabrics with different characteristics can be produced when the fibers are processed to yarn. Cotton is primarily used in the textile industry. Other plant fibers such as jute are essential for packaging (sacks, ropes, bags) but also commonly used as pads, mats, insulants and as fiber composite materials in the car industry.
The major advantage what makes plant fibers superior over chemical fibers is the biodegradability and simple recycling. Additionally, plant fibers are natural and thus not harmful in any way to man. With regards to the global environmental pollution through plastic packaging materials, the key argument for further expanding the use of plant fibers is the protection of our environment.
Global demand in plant fibers is increasing steadily since decades. Increasing production and trade will further intensify demand in the coming years.