Jute – The Natural Choice for Home and Family

BAGS-MADE-FROM-JUTE_201For centuries, jute was known in the Western world primarily as the fiber that burlap was made from. Increasingly, however, this versatile plant fiber is being used for everything from highly decorative rugs and wall hangings to shoes.

What Is Jute?

Jute is a natural plant fiber that’s rough in texture and very strong. It’s the fiber found in the stems of plants that belong to the genus Corchorus. After cotton, jute is the world’s second most abundantly cultivated textile plant.

Since ancient times, Jute has been used throughout Africa and Asia for making ropes and twine. In China, during the Western Han Dynasty, between 206 BC and 220 AD, jute was also used to manufacture paper. In the 17th century, after it was appointed as the regional authority for the British Empire in India, the British East India Company took over the trade in raw jute. Jute largely replaced the use of hemp and flax fibers in sackcloth and other packing materials throughout much of Europe during the Industrial Revolution.

Jute remained a very popular material for rope and packing materials until the 1930s when synthetic fibers made from the synthesized polymers of petroleum based chemicals became ubiquitous. The production of a ton of jute fibers, however, only requires 10 percent of the energy necessary to produce a ton of synthetic fibers.

Jute is one of the cheapest of all plant fibers to produce. It has a high degree of tensile strength, and unlike many other plant fibers, it won’t stretch out of shape when force is applied to it. It also has an exceptional advantage as an insulating material because it doesn’t conduct heat or static electricity.

What Are Natural Fibers?

Natural fibers are textile fibers that are harvested from plant and animal sources. Vegetable fibers can comprise any part of a plant, from the seeds of the cotton plant to the cellulose core of the jute plant. In contrast to synthetic fibers, natural fibers are biodegradable. Additionally, their production typically requires far fewer energy resources than the production of a comparable weight of synthetic fibers.

Natural fibers are healthier than synthetic fibers. They don’t trap perspiration, which means people wearing clothes made from natural fibers are far less likely to suffer from the skin rashes, itching and allergies caused by synthetic materials. Most natural fibers are also carbon neutral, meaning that they absorb the same amount of carbon dioxide that they

What Textiles and Products Can I Buy That Are Made from Jute?

Jute’s coarse texture has restricted its traditional use to the manufacture of items like rope, twine and burlap sacks. It’s often used as a backing material for carpets, area rugs and even linoleum.

Recent advances in technology, however, have diversified jute’s uses. Today, you’ll find a wide range of jute products from decorative panels and carpets to footwear. Jute twines can be woven into curtains, chair coverings and lampshades. Jute has even been used to make paper for high-end greeting cards! Treated jute can also be blended with cotton and wool to create garment-quality cloth. Some manufacturers, in fact, separate jute into fine threads and use these threads to produce a very durable artificial silk.

Increasingly, jute is being investigated as a replacement for wood. The inner core of the mature jute plant is very woody, but the plant only takes between four to six months to mature. Some experts see jute as a remedy for deforestation.

Where does Jute Grow?

Jute grows best in warm, humid climates at temperatures between 24° C to 37° C. The plant has a short growing cycle: It matures between 120 and 150 days. Mature plants reach a height between 8 and 12 feet. Stripping the jute fiber from the plant is a relatively low-tech process that can take place close to where the plant is cultivated.

More than 80 percent of the world’s jute production takes place along the Ganges River Delta. India is both the largest producer of jute and the largest consumer of jute products. The highest quality jute, however, comes from Bangladesh, currently the world’s second largest producer of jute. Bangladesh is also the world’s largest exporter of jute. Other jute-producing countries include China, Myanmar, Uzbekistan, Nepal, Vietnam, Thailand, Sudan and Egypt.

Is Jute Eco-Friendly?

Jute is completely biodegradable. In fact, one common use of jute is in landscaping projects where it’s used to prevent soil erosion in areas where natural vegetation is growing back after a disruption. Jute does not generate toxic gases when it’s burned. In the areas where it’s grown commercially, jute is often rotated with food crops such as rice and other vegetables because leaves and other detritus from the plant enrich the soil when they fall into it and decay. Jute does not require the extensive use of fertilizers or pesticides to grow successfully.

Jute is considered a renewable energy source because of its relatively short growing cycle and high biomass production per unit of cultivated land.

The rising popularity of jute is evidenced by the fact that in 2011 for the first time jute exports passed the one billion dollar mark. While jute is still being used primarily in rope and packing materials, expect to see more of this versatile plant fiber in an array of different products including eco-friendly and dollar friendly jute rugs.


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