Jute is the next environmentally friendly fabric for your clothing. Jute fabric is a great eco-friendly alternative to reduce the environmental impact of your clothes. It is also one of the cheapest natural fibers. Jute fabric is the most used fabric globally after cotton for good reasons!
Jute fabric is strong, durable and eco-friendly. It can be used for your next clothing item to give it a natural look and feel. After realizing the impact of fast fashion on the environment, many brands and designers are looking for new types of fabrics to make affordable and sustainable clothing. Jute fabric might just be the solution.
If you are looking to reduce your carbon footprint and live more sustainably, then you asking about jute makes sense. Here is the answer to a few questions you may have about jute as an eco-friendly fabric for clothing.
What are jute fabrics?
Jute fabric is a type of textile made from jute fiber. Jute is mainly composed of cellulose and lignin. Cellulose and lignin are major components of plant and wood fiber respectively.
Just like some other natural fibers (hemp, linen, ramie,...), jute fiber is collected from the bast or skin of the jute plant.
Jute is well-know as “Golden Fiber”. Jute fibers are usually brown. There are many different types of jute fibers, made from different botanical varieties of jute.
Jute is one of the most affordable natural fibers. It is harvested in single long strings, 1 to 4 meters long with a diameter from 17 to 20 microns. Jute is one of the longest natural textile fibers.
In the western world, jute isn't very popular. But it is widely used in India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh for clothing, cordage, bags, and packaging. It has several uses and is a very versatile fabric.
Jute bags are still more expensive to produce than plastic bags. That is why you don't find it often in developed countries. But plastic bags are getting banned worldwide and jute is rising in popularity.
Disposable plastic bags have a disastrous environmental impact. The world is experiencing a severe plastic waste crisis. Too much plastic is being produced and waste is poorly managed.
We produce each year 359 million tons of plastic globally, compared to 1.5 million tons in 1950. Half of which becomes waste, creating pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and health risks.
Jute, on the other hand, isn't as detrimental to man or nature. Jute fabric is strong and breathable and has lots of environmental benefits.
How is jute fabric made?
The jute fabric production includes many different processing steps that have been the same for centuries. Jute fiber comes from the jute plants Corchorus olitorius (Tossa jute) or Corchorus capsularis (White jute).
The jute plants require lots of rainfall, a warm and humid climate. They typically grow in tropical lowland areas with humidity above 60% without pesticides or fertilizers. The jute plants are harvested annually. They take about 120 days to grow from April to August.
Jute fiber is made from the outer skin of the jute plant (the stem and ribbon). Retting is the process that extracts the jute fibers from the jute plant. The fibers are collected afterward by stripping.
During water retting, jute stems are bundled together and immersed in water to soften. The action of bacteria and enzymes taking up to 30 days in natural water makes the separation of the fiber from the stem possible.
The stripping process begins after retting, to collect the fibrous material and scrape off the rest. With the help of spinning wheels or automated machines, jute fibers are transformed into textile yarn.
Lastly, jute yarn undergoes dyeing or chemical treatment to enhance its properties before being shipped to textile manufacturers.
Where is jute fabric produced?
Jute fabric global production varies depending on demand, price, and climate. The large majority of jute worldwide (more than 99%) is produced in India, China, and Bangladesh.
More specifically near the Ganges Delta, a river delta in the Bengal region of the Indian subcontinent, consisting of Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal.
According to the data of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the largest producer of jute worldwide is India with about 1.95 million tonnes produced in 2018, followed by Bangladesh and China. The annual production of jute globally rose to 3,63 million tonnes in total in 2018.
While China doesn’t produce as much jute as India or Bangladesh, but it is still one of the world’s third-largest jute producers, followed by Uzbekistan and Nepal. Many other Asian countries also produce jute including Vietnam, Thailand, and Bhutan.
China is the largest market for textiles globally, including for jute fabric. Other important markets remain the United States and the European Union.
Jute fabric is one of the most affordable natural textiles and will have a bright future in the eco-friendly fashion world.
What is jute fabric used for?
You will often find jute fabric as a packaging material for rice, wheat, corn, and beans or as bags and apparel. It is widely used in agriculture and also for handbags, shopping bags, luggage, and wallets.
More and more consumer products are made from jute. Jute is a very versatile fabric. It can be bleached and dyed in many colors and also treated to be water-resistant. Jute fibers are often blended with other natural or synthetic fibers to produce various fabrics.
Jute fabric is also used for filters, cordage, geotextiles, decorative items and home furnishings such as carpets, curtains, canvas, rugs, coverlets, and containers.
Fortunately, the demand for natural fibers is going to rise within the fashion industry in the next few years. And jute is no exception. Jute is already used in high-value textiles and composites.
Jute is overall a very cost-effective raw material for fabrics. And it has a low environmental impact. It is a high density, strong, durable fabric, with good heat resistance and moisture retention.
Is jute considered environmentally friendly?
Jute is environmentally friendly. It is a natural fiber, very durable, 100% bio-degradable, compostable and recyclable. It doesn't require any fertilizers or pesticides to grow, as opposed to cotton. In addition, jute does not create microfibers that usually pollute waterways and the oceans. It also does not generate toxic gases when burnt. Jute doesn't pollute the environment and doesn't make any waste.
During the growing season between April and August, one hectare of jute plants can absorb up to 15 tons of carbon dioxide and release 11 tons of oxygen over 120 days. Cultivating jute also increases soil quality and fertility for future crops, such as rice usually grown in the same area.
While rice depletes the soil, jute returns nutrients. Growing these two crops together reduces the environmental impact of rice production. Crop rotation is a basic sustainable practice that helps preserve soils without chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
Jute is gaining in popularity as the green movement is booming. Consumers are asking for more sustainable products. Reaching maturity in under 120 days and offering large crop yields, jute is the perfect eco-friendly alternative.
Jute fabric is an amazing sustainable raw material to produce reusable bags. It is an extremely viable alternative to harmful plastic bags. Jute has an overall positive impact on the environment. It actually is one of the few natural fibers that provide so many environmental benefits.
Most jute producers are independent and locally owned. The majority of their products are sold locally as well and not being exported to the western world. There are however jute producers owned by corporations, tempted to exploit the local communities without giving back, encouraging unsustainable production processes.
Before purchasing any jute product, make sure to check the origin of the raw materials. Buy products from independent companies using natural and organic production methods. Workers' exploitation and farmers' impoverishment are not necessary to create affordable, durable and high-quality products.
Jute is a natural plant-based fiber. This makes it eligible for organic certification. In some countries, certification is overseen by the government, making commercial use of the term organic restricted.
The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) provides organic certification for textile fibers produced all around the world. This is a good certification to look when shopping for jute products. There are also other certification standards to guide you while shopping for eco-friendly products.
Can jute be used as a fashion fabric?
Jute is a versatile, natural and relatively cheap fiber. It is often blended with other natural fibers like cotton to alter its properties. Jute is an ideal eco-friendly fabric for clothing in the fashion industry.
To make fashion garments, jute can also be blended with manufactured and synthetic fibers like nylon, rayon, acrylic or polypropylene. Blending makes the fabric feel softer and shine.
Jute is often too rough to be used alone for apparel production. However, new softening techniques are being developed to make it more comfortable. Jute is rarely used for garments directly in contact with the skin. But jute sweaters, pullovers, and jackets are rapidly gaining popularity worldwide.
New fashion shows are displaying a wide range of garments made from jute and many designers are using it. It gives any body-type a natural look.
The best properties of jute fabric for clothing
Jute fiber is a natural, environmentally friendly alternative for clothing. It is also one of the cheapest natural fibers.
Jute is the most produced natural fiber after cotton. Jute is strong, durable, dense and very versatile. It has good insulating and anti-static properties, low thermal conductivity and moderate moisture retention. In addition, the jute fabric is highly breathable.
Jute can be blended with other natural and synthetic fibers to make various fabrics. Unfortunately, wool is still used too often as a blending material with jute. It also accepts all sorts of dyes such as natural, vat, sulfur, reactive dyes and pigments.
Advantages and disadvantages of jute fabric for clothing
Let's list the advantages of jute fabric for eco-friendly clothing:
- high strength
- high durability
- very cheap
- very dense
- very versatile
- highly breathable
- natural feel and look
- low thermal conductivity
- good enough moisture regain
- easily blended
- easily dyed
- low environmental impact
Jute has plenty of good reasons to be used. It is eco-friendly and is gaining popularity. However, jute has some disadvantages for clothing as well:
- color change in sunlight
- low comfort
- lower strength when wet
About the Author: Alex Assoune
Alex Assoune (MS) is a global health and environmental advocate. He founded Panaprium to inspire others with conscious living, ethical, and sustainable fashion. Alex has worked in many countries to address social and environmental issues. He speaks three languages and holds two Master of Science degrees in Engineering from SIGMA and IFPEN schools.