Fibre Focus: Banana

    Fibre Focus banana

    Choosing a fibre from a design perspective can be challenging enough, but the fibre that a fabric is made from also has numerous environmental and social impacts. It can be difficult to work out the best option when selecting a fibre.

    Introducing Fibre Focus, our fabric blog that breaks down the various impacts of a fibre from an environmental, social justice and design standpoint. It is important to also consider any potential impacts a fibre might have if it were to become more popular.


    Design advantages:
    • Lightweight, but strong and durable
    • Absorbs and wicks away moisture from the wearer’s skin
    • Versatile fibre – some parts of the plant render a silk-like yarn, and other parts produce a yarn similar to hemp or linen
    • Versatile fabric – banana fabric has applications across many industries from gardening to fashion, to home wares to accessories
    • Has affinity with natural and synthetic dyes
    • Good surface to print on

    Design disadvantages:
    • The external parts of the banana are comparatively coarse compared to the soft, inner fibres. Sometimes sodium hydroxide/lye/caustic soda is used to process the outer fibres
    • Banana fabric can be more expensive than similar fibres, for example silk, linen or hemp
    • Banana plants take a long time to grow. Some species can take up to 9 months to grow – whereas it takes 100 days for flax to grow from seed to fibre

    Environmental impacts:
    • Banana fibre is natural, biodegradable and renewable
    • Banana fabric can be derived from banana farm byproducts. This avoids GHG emissions through waste incineration, and is an economical use of resources used to grow the bananas
    • Bananas also have many other uses in cosmetics, food, gardening and textiles
    • Banana trees need lots of water to grow compared to hemp and bamboo
    • Animal and cruelty-free fibre
    • Banana peel can be used as a natural fertiliser in place of synthetic chemicals
    • The growing process of plants uses photosynthesis which improves air quality by removing CO2 and replacing it with oxygen
    • Banana trees can grow without chemical intervention
    • Banana fibres can be hand processed – hand processing has no carbon emissions and pollutes no water

    Social impacts:
    • Provides jobs, which generate income
    • The fruit is a nutritious and energy-rich food source
    • Hand processing reduces the need rural-urban migration for employment
    • Hand processing preserves a traditional handicraft that dates back to 13th century
    • Producers of banana fabric can enjoy uncontaminated water sources
    • Banana farmers can earn a second stream of income

    Positive potential impact:
    • Banana plantations could become more economical and use their resources to grow bananas for food, cosmetics, gardening, packaging and textiles
    • Decreased dependence on chemical companies for farmers and producers
    • Less non-biodegradable waste entering landfill
    • Preservation of land, water and soil quality
    • A wide range of fabrics on the market derived from the same plant – banana silk, banana linen, banana canvas etc

    Negative potential impact:
    • Job loss for chemical companies and other fibre sectors
    • Increased presence of sodium hydroxide in water sources, and therefore an increased risk of disruption to aquatic life
    • Increased use of fossil fuels and increased carbon emissions from importing/exporting bananas to nations where they do not grow naturally

    So there you have it, a simple breakdown on banana’s various impacts that you can keep in mind when next buying, sourcing or designing.