The Untapped Potential of Jute
Jute has traditionally been the biggest cash crop of Bangladesh and has been used for making rope, sacks and carpet backing for decades. The industry unfortunately went into in a decline with the advent and rampant use of synthetic substitutes. Jute is a natural fiber obtained as an extract from the bark of the jute plant, which reaches its full growth within three months of planting.
Now with the increased awareness of the harm done by plastic bags and ropes to the environment, the time is ripe to push the diverse potential uses of jute in industrial and domestic use. It may seem to be cheaper to use synthetic substitutes but the long term price paid is very heavy.
A newer and nontraditional use of jute has been in geotextiles. This is an engineering product that strengthens the soil on or in which it is placed. It is being increasingly used to protect eroding riverbanks, strengthen poorly built roads and to take care of dangerous slopes. It can stabilize embankments and control soil erosion.
Jute can substitute timber when used as Jute Reinforced Composites. These are made out of jute and thermo-setting resins and can be used instead of timber-based laminates for doors and windows. The day is not far when these composites are used to make knockdown furniture and household articles. Jute composite tiles are being successfully used as the external lining of concrete buildings. Non-woven jute products and jute molded products also have a good potential market in the industrial and consumer durables market.
Jute is already being used to make shoe uppers, lampshades, suitcases, paperweights, helmets, shower and bath units. Panels, false ceilings and partitions are already in the market. Jute composites are used for covers of electrical appliances, pipes, post-boxes, roof tiles and grain storage silos. The construction of low cost, pre-fabricated mobile units that can be used in times of natural calamities such as floods, cyclones and earthquakes has a huge potential in the subcontinent itself
The key lies in popularizing and advertising these products which will not only increase their market share but also bring down their cost. The biggest plus is that jute is environment friendly and that is the buzz word of the day.