What is Jute? Is it Eco-Friendly? What is it Used For Exactly?

When looking to purchase eco-friendly and sustainable fabric or material, Jute is top on my list. Not only is Jute eco-friendly, but it is also an extremely durable fibre that can hold up to some serious wear-and-tea

But, what is Jute exactly? The name itself doesn’t give off any hints and is it really as great as we are led to believe? Spoiler – it is!

I did some digging to find out more about this multifaceted fibre and I’ve got to say I am not disappointed in the slightest. So, let’s dive right in and look at all of Jute’s facets and find out what it’s used for exactly and why it’s considered an eco-friendly material.

What is Jute?

Jute, an edible leafy vegetable, also known as “the golden fibre”, is a long, soft and shiny fibre made from the cellulose and lignin material from the jute plant. While there are several species of Jute most Jute fabric is made from Corchorus capsularis (white jute). Corchorus Olitorius (Tossa jute) is another species of Jute that is used to make material, it is of higher quality than white jute but it is harder to cultivate.

Once processed, Jute fibre is used to make rope, bags, carpets and much more. Do you happen to have any burlap bags or rustic-looking baskets at home? If you do, chances are that those products are made of jute.

Why is jute called the golden fibre?

The answer is in plain sight: it’s because of its appearance and cost-effectiveness. Jute fibres are light, soft to the touch and have a yellowish-brown colour with a golden shine to them. Also, jute is quick and easy to grow, having an excellent cost-to-outcome ratio. It is 100% biodegradable and it’s the most affordable natural fibre on the market at the moment.

Origin of jute fibre

Jute is extracted from the stem of two different plants, Corchorus capsularis, which is used to make white jute, and Corchorus Olitorius, used to make tossa jute. Jute is mainly produced in India and Bangladesh, in fact, 90% of the world’s jute comes from Bangladesh.

It’s known that jute has been grown in those territories for at least 5,000 years and nowadays it’s still highly produced in such countries due to its versatility and its benefits to their textile industries and economies. While jute had also been grown in Scotland, their production is nowhere near to Bangladesh’s or India’s.

Additionally, jute wasn’t known to Westernt commerce until 1830 and since then, Europe and the United States import large quantities of jute fibre – they just can’t get enough of it. Fun fact: the Chinese also used jute 2,000 years ago… To make paper!

How is jute made?

After harvesting the jute plant, it is kept submerged in slow running water for 10 to 30 days. During this period, bacteria dissolve the sticky material that holds the plant fibres together. This process is called “retting”.

Once this step is complete, the fibres present in the stem remain and can be separated from the non-fibrous matter by hand. Then, the separated fibres are washed, dried, sorted and sent to jute mills, where they are processed to make jute yarns. Eventually, the jute yarns are sent to manufacturers to make sacks, bags, ropes and other eco-friendly products.

A jute bag sitting on a white bed.

Is jute eco-friendly?

It certainly is! Actually, jute’s one of the world’s most eco-friendly fibres to produce. That’s because it’s completely biodegradable, it absorbs carbon dioxide and releases oxygen (even faster than trees do), it grows without the use of pesticide or fertilizer, can enhance the fertility of the soil it grows in and it doesn’t release microfibers, reducing the pollution of waterways. It’s not only eco-friendly but sustainable.

What Makes Jute Sustainable?

Many factors, like its ability to reach maturity in less than 6 months, meaning that less land is required to cultivate it. There’s no need to encroach upon wilderness and natural habitats thanks to its efficiency of growth, it needs little intervention to grow and replenish. Also, it relies on natural rainfall, needing less water to survive than cotton.

Can Jute be recycled?

100% it can be recycled. Besides using the same fibres of a product to build another one, you can grab your jute goods like mats, bags and rugs that are too old to use anymore and turn them into compost for the garden, your plants will be really grateful. As you can see, jute is highly environmentally friendly.

What is jute used for?

Jute applications are nearly endless. It’s a very versatile fibre as it can be used independently or blended with a range of other materials. The fibre can be made into textiles like yarn, sacking, twine and it can be used to make rugs, rope, burlap and clothing (fabric and material in general).

Rugs

As jute is soft to the touch, rugs made of jute make an excellent home decoration. They can be round, square or rectangular, they look fresh and bring naturalness, personality and warmth to any environment, whether a modern one or a rustic one. And the best part of all? They are quite durable and don’t require much maintenance. Just don’t subject them to excessive humidity, that’s its only enemy.

Rope

Jute ropes are not only versatile and highly resistant to heat, sunlight, heavy weight and friction, but can be used in crafts, sewing and decoration. Hello eco-friendly DIY door wreaths! You should avoid getting a Jute rope wet if possible and store it in a low-humidity environment to lengthen its life. Most natural fibre ropes have a life of about 10 years with proper care.

Burlap

Burlap is a fabric that can be made of jute that is well known as one of the most preferred packaging materials. Why? Because of its resistance to heavyweights and tears.
Besides packaging, burlap can be used in decoration, crafts, upholstery and gardening. Have you seen the biodegradable tote bags that are trending nowadays? Well, many of them are made of jute burlap. This fabric can also be dyed or printed, so you can customize it as you wish.

A jute basket sitting on the floor in a living room.

Clothing/Fabric/Material

Many clothing brands and designers are realizing the impact of fast fashion on the environment, making them look for new eco-friendly fabrics to produce both affordable and sustainable clothing. This is where jute fabric makes its appearance, could it be a solution? Absolutely!

While jute isn’t very popular in the western fashion industry, jute footwear, sweaters and jackets are earning their spots step by step, even new softening techniques are being developed to make jute more comfortable because the fibre can be a bit rough on the skin if it’s not blended with other fibres like nylon.

Moreover, jute fabric is highly breathable – a plus for fashion elements. Finally, it should be noted that jute fabrics can be used not only for clothing, but also for tablecloths and curtains. What more could you ask for?

A jute basket filled with pillows sitting on the floor.

Pros and cons of jute

Like all things in life, jute fiber has its pros and cons. It’s already known that jute has many advantages – we have made it clear in this post, and we have already mentioned one of its disadvantages: humidity. But… What are some of its other advantages and disadvantages?

Advantages of jute

It’s 100% eco-friendly, biodegradable and sustainable.
One of the strongest natural vegetable fibres.
Cost-effective.
Has insulating and antistatic properties.
Low thermal conductivity.
Highly breathable.
Can be dyed and printed.
Can be blended with both natural and synthetic fibres.

Disadvantages of Jute

It gets along poorly with humidity as it can get moldy and brownish.
It is very absorbent, which makes it a drawback when it comes to removing stains from jute rugs or fabric.

Burlap, for example, cannot be washed in washing machines. As jute is a natural fiber, it can disintegrate if fully immersed in water for long periods of time.

Is jute better than cotton?

Jute has many advantages over cotton, like its high sustainability, lesser maintenance and faster degradation, but… Is it overall better than cotton?

Environmentally-wise, it is. While both of these fibres are natural, jute needs less water than cotton, it only requires rain to grow, whereas cotton needs a much larger amount of water.
Also, jute is grown with chemical-free and pesticide-free methods – a pretty natural cultivation. Cotton, on the other hand… Not so much. Cotton is, in fact, the fourth-largest consumer of chemicals for agricultural use.

Now, if we talk about jute being a better fiber than cotton for common use… It depends. If you want a strong, versatile, durable and inexpensive but quality fiber, jute is definitely your way to go.

Is jute stronger than cotton?

Indeed, jute is stronger than cotton. Cotton fibres are very soft, delicate and fluffy. They can stretch and tear easily but jute fibres retain their shape when used for bags, for example, and provide resistance to tension, heavy weights and friction.

Of course, cotton and jute come from different parts of different plants – one from the soft padding around the cotton plant seeds and the other from the tough fibres in the jute plant, so it’s clear from the start that one is stronger than the other.

Jute is not only eco-friendly it is a great material for all sorts of products!

Gradually, the world has become increasingly aware of the use of sustainable and biodegradable products. While synthetic fibres continue to dominate the market, natural fibres such as jute are expanding their presence in industries and households.

Besides the fact that, let’s face it, rugs and tablecloths made from jute look great, its eco-friendly production and reusability has kept more and more people interested in the golden fiber. And with good reason! Its uses are practically endless.

From ropes to even clothing, jute fiber is very versatile and customizable. You can dye it or simply leave it with its golden hue, turn it into shopping bags, home decor or cool jackets – the choice is yours to make!

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