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Jute fiber is used to make natural materials and green products

Updated on December 12, 2012

Copyright 2012 - Kris Heeter, Ph.D. (reposting, copying, or republishing this article in part or in whole is prohibited)

Exploration of natural fibers for new bio-based products is a growing industry. Those fibers that come from renewable resources are becoming increasingly popular.

Scientists and companies are turning to plants that grow quickly and from which fiber, rich in cellulose, can be easily extracted. Jute is one example of a plant that meets these criteria.

Jute has been used and traded for centuries in Eastern and Far Eastern countries. Early industrial use dates back to 1833 in Scotland where jute fiber was first spun mechanically. The first jute mill was later built in India in 1855.


The Jute Plant - Corchorus capsularis and Corchorus olitorius

Jute fiber is extracted typically from two herbaceous annual plants, Corchorus capsularis and Corchorus olitorius.

Corchorus capsularis is known as "white jute" and Corchorus olitorius is referred to as "tossa jute".

Jute originated in Asia and Africa and it is now is grown mainly in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, China, and Thailand.

The plants are harvested by hand, dried, and then undergo a period of “retting”. Retting is a essentially a rotting process. Micro-organisms and moisture on the harvested plants to facilitate the cellular decay and leave cellulose fibers behind.

The fiber collected from jute plants is considered a "bast fiber" – fibers collected from the skin or bast of the plant. Other bast fibers used for natural products includekenaf, hemp, ramie, and flax.

Once collected, the fibers are graded for a number of factors:

  • color
  • length
  • uniformity
  • cleanliness,
  • strength
  • softness
  • luster

After it is graded, it can be used to make a number of different natural products.


Natural Jute is Used to Make Sacks, Rugs and Carpet

Some of the more popular products made from jute fiber include natural area rugs and carpets.

Natural jute ranges in color from light tan to a reddish brown. The natural fiber woven into area rugs is very durable and creates a beautiful natural floor covering.

Jute is often used as the backing to carpet rather than in the surface of carpet. It is also a popular material in some countries for prayer rugs.

Other Natural Products Made From Jute Fiber

Jute fiber can be used alone or blended with other natural fibers to create green products, for example:

  • Handbags
  • Rope
  • Twine
  • Paper, including cigarette paper

Jute handbags have become popular not only because jute fiber is environmentally friendly but also because it is durable.

Using jute to create pulp for paper has many advantages. The paper making process uses less chemicals and consumes less energy than making traditional wood pulp in the pulping process.

Is Jute Soft?

The answer to that question is not black and white!

Jute fiber itself is long, soft and shiny.

Tossa jute fiber is softer, silkier, and stronger than white jute. The fiber from either plant is spun into coarse, strong threads that is used to make a fabric and common jute fabric is not really considered soft.

However, very fine threads of jute can be separated out and made into imitation silk which can be much softer.

Jute Fabric

Jute fabric is used primarily for wrapping bales of raw cotton and for making a coarse cloth or burlap (also called hessain cloth). Jute woven fabric can also be made into curtains and chair coverings.

Natural jute burlap can be purchased in rolls of varying widths. It is often marketed as an eco-friendly cloth that can be used for window displays, floral arrangements and other craft projects.

Other related articles of interest:

New Being Explored

India is the leading producer of jute fiber. In collaboration with the United Nations Development Program, the Indian government is researching new uses for jute. The possibilities include fine yarns, composites, and paper.

With regard to composites, jute is being evaluated for use in molded composites with thermoplastic materials that can be used in automobiles.


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    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 5 years ago from Indiana

      @grandmapearl - oh, that sounds like an fun and relaxing afternoon. We need those every once in while - just sitting back and enjoying nature!

    • grandmapearl profile image

      Connie Smith 5 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Hi Kris, as a matter of fact, I was able to watch the female oriole while she retrieved those pieces of jute. I timed her, just for fun. In exactly 8 minutes she was back for more, and that lasted for several hours. I have a nice view of the tree branch where I draped the jute. That was a very fun and interesting afternoon, but I didn't get very much done!

    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 5 years ago from Indiana

      @grandmapearl - That sounds really neat and probably very fun to watch if you can catch them in the act!

    • grandmapearl profile image

      Connie Smith 5 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      I found this Hub to be very interesting. I also have another use for jute. I drape 7 to 10" lengths of it over tree branches for my orioles. They come back again and again to weave it into the outer layer of their pouch-like nests! Thanks for sharing this 'green' information. I truly believe the greener we go, the better off we all will be.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 5 years ago from Central Florida

      The information you offer is so important to saving the planet. Although I prefer to "buy American" I now see that the commercial market, in an effort to redirect the populous to green living, must go where the resources are. Thank you, Kris for broadening my narrow thinking. You bring on the "big picture" through your educational hubs. I for one, am intrigued!

    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 5 years ago from Indiana

      @phdast7 - I've not seen any jute handbags around here yet but did run across some rope at our co-op. I like the idea that the bags are very durable!

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Very, very interesting. Although I have had a couple of jute handbags (and they do last forever), I really didn't know anything about the plant or its products at all. It is surprising to me that it is not grown in any of the hot humid regions of Central or South America. Great Hub. :)

    • Berlin123 profile image

      Berlin123 5 years ago

      Well written hub and quite informative. Voted up. Thanks

    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 5 years ago from Indiana

      @LinkTycoon - thanks for sharing that fact. That's very interesting!

    • LinksTycoon profile image

      LinksTycoon 5 years ago from San Diego, CA

      Great Hub. Jute is now becoming increasingly popular and has raced up the charts of textile fibers to become the second most sold textile fiber in the world.