In the guide below though, we look at how jute rates amongst different measures to see how sustainable and eco friendly it might be.
Summary – How Sustainable & Eco Friendly Is Jute For Fibres, Fabric, Textiles?
Sustainability & Eco Friendliness
– Potential Benefits
Is a natural and renewable fibre
Jute grows quickly (usually in 4 to 6 months), and may yield more fibre than flax
If jute is mostly rainfed, it’s water footprint is much more sustainable than a cotton crop that uses mostly irrigation (about 85% of Jute crops are rainfed crops in India according to some data)
Jute can be grown with minimal pesticide and fertilizer inputs, and when fertilizer is used, organic fertilizer can be used
Jute may be carbon neutral as a fabric, and jute as a plant may have a higher absorption rate of carbon than trees
Jute as a plant produces oxygen
May have several soil and land health benefits, such as adding organic matter, replacing nutrients (and growing in conjunction with crops that don’t), and restoring waste land
May be able to make use of waste land, or land with unfavorable soil conditions that other crops can’t grow on
Biological retting can be more sustainable and eco friendly than chemical retting
The processing of jute can be more sustainable in some ways than the processing of synthetic fibres, especially when biological retting is used
Jute may be used as a wood substitute for some uses, which may reduce deforestation in some instances, and provide a more sustainable option over tree plantations (where jute might be more sustainable)
Jute as a fibre by itself is both biodegradable and recyclable
From wikipedia.org: ‘… jute is the most environment-friendly fiber starting from the seed to expired fiber …’
– Potential Drawbacks
Jute can be a water hungry crop – this is why it’s grown in places with monsoon seasons like India and Bangladesh. In places without adequate rainfall, jute may use irrigation. Jute can also still use irrigation even when it’s mostly rainfed
Jute may have a higher carbon footprint than flax and hemp at some stages of it’s lifecycle
Chemical retting can be less sustainable and eco friendly than biological retting
Jute is an annual, and not a biannual or perennial (meaning that jute only lasts one season)
Jute may grow better in some specific conditions compared to others – tropical rainfall, warm weather and high humidity might be good conditions for optimal jute growth. So, optimal jute production may be limited to certain regions in the world
Jute is one of the leading natural fibres in terms of total production (behind cotton), but cotton and synthetic fibres like polyester are still produced in greater amounts
Jute is being replaced for some uses by synthetic fibres, but for some uses where biodegradability is required, jute is still used
Some other fibres may have a wider range of uses compared to jute
Chemical retting may be more expensive than biological retting
The jute industry is worth in the billions of dollars globally, every year
The farming of jute provides a way for many people around the world in different regions to make a living
Jute is also one of the most affordable fibres for both producers and consumers
The economic demand for jute across some uses may be limited by synthetic fibre alternatives
What About The Eco Friendliness & Sustainability Of Other Fibres & Fabrics?
These guides may provide further insight on how jute compares to other fibres too.
Other Factors That Might Impact The Sustainability Or Eco Friendliness Of Fibres
*This Guide Is A Generalisation Only
The different variables in jute growing (conditions, climates, soils, farming technology, farming methods), retting, processing, production, usage, etc. can all impact the final sustainability footprint of jute.
This is especially true between different producers, and between the developed and developing world countries.
What Is Jute?
Jute is a natural fibre which is usually extracted from the bark of the white jute plant.
It’s considered to be a bast fibre.
There’s different types of jute plants, which may have slightly different properties to each other.
What Jute Is
Jute is a long, soft, shiny vegetable [plant] fiber that can be spun into coarse, strong threads
It falls into the bast fiber category (fiber collected from bast, the phloem of the plant, sometimes called the “skin”) along
… kenaf, industrial hemp, flax (linen), ramie [are other examples of bast fiber category fibers]
Types Of Jute
… [two examples of jute plants are] white jute and tossa jute (which is softer, silkier, and stronger than white jute) (wikipedia.org)
Jute is extracted from the bark of the white jute plant … and to a lesser extent from tossa jute … (fao.org)
Production Of Jute
Jute is not produced in the quantities that cotton or polyester are as fibres.
India and Bangladesh produce most of the world’s Jute.
Total Production (Overall, & As A Share Of All Fibres)
Jute … is second only to cotton in amount produced and variety of uses (wikipedia.org, and climatecolab.org)
Annual output in the last decade ranges from 2.5 to 3.2 million tonnes, on a par with wool (fao.org)
Having said that, both cotton and polyester are produced in much higher quantities as fibres.
Weather conditions and prices can impact jute production year to year.
Countries That Grow & Produce The Most Jute
Jute is a product of South Asia and specifically a product of India and Bangladesh [and] about 95% of world jute is grown in these two south Asian countries.
Bangladesh exports nearly 40% as raw fibre, and about 50% as manufactured items.
You can see the top 10 producers by metric tonne in 2014 in the listed wikipedia.org resource
What Is Jute Used For?
Jute has a number of uses such as burlap, hessian or gunny cloth, along with twine, rope, and matting being some of the common uses.
Fine jute fibres can even be turned into imitation silk.
Jute is in great demand due to its cheapness, softness, length, lustre, uniformity [and also because of how versatile it is] (wikipedia.org)
Synthetic fibres may be replacing jute for some uses except where biodegradability is a priority.
Jute is used chiefly to make cloth for wrapping bales of raw cotton, and to make sacks and coarse cloth [amongst other uses]
Synthetic fibres might be replacing Jute for some of these uses, but jute is remaining a fibre of choice where biodegradability is important
The major manufactured products from jute fibre are: Yarn and twine, sacking, hessian, carpet backing cloth and … textile blends.
The fibres are woven into curtains, chair coverings, carpets and area rugs and [a range of other products]
The finest threads can be separated out and made into imitation silk.
The listed wikipedia.org and fao.org resources outline more products and uses of jute.
How Jute Is Grown, & How Fibres Are Produced
Generally, the process is:
– Jute is grown and harvested
– Fibres need to be retted from the plant (stripped from the stem) via chemical or biological retting
– After retting, non-fibrous matter is scraped off via stripping
– After other steps, jute fibre undergoes the spinning process to get turned into a yarn
– After other steps, yarn goes through the weaving process to get turned into fabric
jpdepc.org, wikipedia.org, advancetextile86.blogspot.com and fao.org all have more information on the growing and fibre production of jute
Yields Of Jute
Jute grows quickly.
However, most of the yield (in weight) can be green plant matter, and not fibre yield.
Rainfall/water inputs, and agricultural practices can significantly impact yield.
Jute may yield more fibre than flax.
Jute Yields Specifically
Yields are about 2 tonnes of dry jute fibre per hectare.
Yields are about 2 tonnes of dry jute fibre per hectare
Green plant weight yield is 45 to 50 tonnes per hectare
Fibre yield is 2.0 to 2.5 tonnes per hectare.
The average fibre yields are low at 22 to 23 q/ha
Yields can vary with erratic rainfall distribution, and poor agronomic management practices
Jute yields 5 -10 MT of dry matter per acre of land.
About 1 MT of dry matter is put back to the soil in the form of leaves.
About 3 MT of roots remain in the soil.
Jute plant fibers are quick … to grow (cleanfax.com)
Jute is a fast growing field crop … (purejute.com)
Yield Compared To Other Fibres
On average, jute yields four times more fibre per acre than flax (climatecolab.org)
… the [jute] growth cycle is very short, typically 4-6 months (purejute.com)
Jute is an annual crop taking about 120 days (April/May-July/August) to grow.
It thrives in tropical lowland areas with humidity of 60% to 90%.
How Much Water Does Jute Use?
Jute can be water hungry, but it tends to be grown in places with high rainfall.
In the places where jute is mainly rain fed as a crop, it’s water footprint is comprised mostly of rainwater, and not majority irrigated water. This can be an important sustainability consideration.
In comparison to cotton which might use more irrigation, jute may have a more sustainable water footprint.
Jute does require a lot of water … so it’s most prevalent in locales with monsoon seasons such as India and Bangladesh (networx.com)
About 85% of Jute crops are rainfed crops in India (researchgate.net)
Jute is a rain-fed crop [meaning less irrigated water from freshwater sources are used]
Jute needs tropical rainfall, warm weather and high humidity [to grow]
Jute crop requires 500 mm of water.
First irrigation is to be given after sowing and life irrigation on fourth day after sowing [and] Afterwards irrigation can be given once in 15 days.
wikipedia.org has more information on how much rainfall and the type of water (soft water) that is necessary for jute production
Compared To Other Fibres
Jute is a rain-fed crop … in contrast to cotton’s heavy requirements (wikipedia.org)
Carbon Footprint Of Jute
Jute can absorb carbon dioxide and also release oxygen.
Some source say jute is carbon neutral.
Other sources say that whilst jute may assimilate carbon (absorb it) at a higher rate than trees, jute may have a higher carbon footprint than flax and hemp.
The carbon footprint is low
Jute [has a] high carbon dioxide (CO2) assimilation rate [and] Jute plants clean the air by consuming large quantities of CO2
One hectare of jute plants can consume about 15 tons of CO2 from atmosphere and release about 11 tons of oxygen in the 100 days of the jute-growing season.
… fabrics made of jute fibers are carbon-dioxide neutral (wikipedia.org)
Compared To Other Crops & Plantations
newfrontierdata.com has a good infographic that shows the carbon footprint of different natural fibre crops, such as hemp, flax, and jute.
Hemp has a similar carbon footprint to flax, with jute having a slightly higher carbon footprint than both.
Studies also show that the CO2 assimilation rate of jute is several times higher than trees … (purejute.com)
How Much Pesticide & Fertilizer Does Jute Use?
Jute may use little fertiliser or pesticides.
Jute can also make use of organic fertilizer when it does use fertilizer.
Jute [has] little need for fertilizer or pesticides.
Jute growers use fairly small amount of chemical fertilisers and herbicides – 20 kg per ha each of N, P2O5 and K2O are to be applied basally.
Five tonnes of well decomposed farm yard manure [can] be applied during last ploughing
From wikipedia.org: [Jute] has low pesticide and fertilizer needs
Jute, Soil Health, & Soil & Land Degradation
Jute may have several benefits for soil and land, such as:
– Adding to organic matter
– Adding or replacing nutrients in soil, and helping maintain soil fertility. It can also be grown with other crops that may not be as good at replacing nutrients in soil
– Helping rehabilitate degraded land or waste land
Replacing Nutrients In Soil, & Maintaining Soil Fertility
Jute cropping system enhances soil organic matter through leaf shedding during the growing season and improves nutrient availability in the soil.
Jute is commonly rotated with other food crops [that take nutrients from the soil without necessarily replacing the nutrients]
Jute-based multiple cropping thus not only increases agricultural production, but may also sustain the fertility level of soil mainly through leaf fall and organic waste decomposition under jute, if the inputs throughout the rotation are used judiciously.
Rehabilitating Land & Soil
Multiple seasons of jute growth can rehabilitate waste land, allowing it to be used for other crops including rice (purejute.com)
Jute & Land Use
Jute may be able to make use of land with soil that other crops can’t grow on.
[jute] can be grown on waste land, including tidal areas and alkaline soils. (purejute.com)
How Many Chemicals Does Jute Use In The Processing Stage?
Jute production can involve the use of chemicals during chemical retting, and also during the finishing and treating of the fibre or fabric.
Biological retting tends to me more eco friendly than chemical retting.
Overall, jute production may be slightly more eco friendly than synthetic production in some instances.
climatecolab.org: The environmental impacts of jute production are much less harmful as compared to the production of synthetic fibers.
[During biological retting, to extract the fibre from beneath the jute plant woody core, the jute stems are immersed in slow running water]
[One of the benefits of this approach is that there is not a focus on using heavy chemicals or solvents]
[once jute is grown and harvested], the fibres can be extracted by either biological or chemical retting processes.
Given the expense of using chemicals to strip the fibre from the stem, biological processes are more widely practiced.
Biological retting can be done by either by stack, steep and ribbon processes …
Finishing & Treating
[Jute can be treated with caustic soda to change it’s traits, and to enable it to better be blended with other fibres like wool] (fao.org)
Biodegradability & Recyclability Of Jute
Jute fibre is 100% bio-degradable and recyclable [as long as it is not combined with other fibres or grown or processed with toxic chemicals] (fao.org)
From wikipedia.org: [Jute is biodegradable and recyclable, and jute] fibers can be recycled more than once
Jute, Deforestation, & Wood Substitution
Jute may be able to be used as a wood substitute for some uses.
Not only may this reduce deforestation in some instances, but it may help provide a more sustainable solution where trees may be less sustainable than jute to grow.
[Jute can be substituted for wood for uses such as pulp and paper production, and this can help address deforestation]
… jute can [also] be grown in 4–6 months with [an amount of] cellulose being produced from the jute hurd … that can meet most of the wood needs of the world
Impact Of Jute On The Environment, Humans & Human Health, & Animals & Wildlife
If less agricultural chemicals are used, and even processing chemicals, there may be less chance of environmental pollution from leaching, waste water, etc.
Humans & Human Health
If less pesticides are used during farming compared to cotton for example, then farm workers are being exposed less to these types of chemicals.
Wildlife & Animals
If less chemicals are used at the farming stage, and also the processing stage, there may be a reduced impact on aquatic species for example, if there’s less water pollution from waste water and leaching of these chemicals into water sources.
Practical Benefits Of Jute As A Fibre
Importance As A Fibre
Wikipedia.org mentions that while jute might be capped in it’s potential for used as a textile fibre, it may have significant potential for more use as a wood fibre across many uses.
There’s also an FAO.org resource referenced in that guide, along with other resources, that point out some of the potential practical benefits of jute as a fibre.
Economic Benefits Of Jute
The jute industry is worth billions globally on an annual basis.
Jute is also affordable, reasonably feasible to grow in some regions, and provides a livelihood for many people in terms of employment.
Economic Value Of The Jute Industry
The size of the global jute industry [in 2013] is ~USD 1.75 billion, of which India accounts for ~USD 1.25 billion or 70% of jute produced (horizonresearchpartners.com )
As demand for natural fibres grows, it’s expected the jute industry can grow.
But, the popularity of cheap alternatives like plastic based fibres do also limit the demand for jute for some uses.
Affordability Of The Fibre
Jute is one of the most affordable natural fibers in existence … (wikipedia.org)
Feasibility To Grow
Jute plant fibers are quick and cheap to grow [making them efficient overall to make and sell] (cleanfax.com)
… jute fibre are used worldwide in sackcloth – and help sustain the livelihoods of millions of small farmers (climatecolab.org)
General Economic Benefits Of Natural Fibre Crops
Plant based fibres may be the only type of fibre that can be produced in some regions of the world, and might offer other benefits too, such as being able to be grown alongside or in rotation with another plant, crop, or other agricultural product.