Banana is one of the most important commercial tropical fruits traded. Besides fruit, banana plants also produce giant stems as tall as a person that will never grow again. After the harvest, banana stems are usually discarded as waste.
TexFad, a Ugandan company, is turning this waste banana pseudo stems and other waste materials into high-quality, sustainable textile products. The startup, founded by Kimani Muturi, extracts the fiber from parts of the banana tree’s trunks that can be used to produce environmentally friendly products such as textiles, carpets, biodegradable hair extensions.
The banana tree trunks are first split in half with machetes and fed into a cutting machine. The machine then transforms these trunks into long, leathery fibers that are hung on lines to dry before being processed and used to make high-quality eco-friendly products.
Muturi explains his company is experimenting with various uses of banana fibers, producing carpets, and market-testing hair extension products. “The hair extensions we are making are highly biodegradable,” he told Reuters. “After using, our ladies will go and bury them in the soil, and they will become manure for their vegetables.”
He believes that the material could replace some synthetic fibers and be used to make paper products like bank notes among a range of possible applications. TexFad is currently researching ways to soften banana fibers so that they can be used to produce clothing.
The company expects to produce 2,400 carpets by the end of 2021. It also plans to start exporting products to the US, UK, and Canada in June.
TexFad isn’t the only company to use banana waste to develop eco-friendly products. Researchers from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia, have developed a novel method to turn banana plantation waste into biodegradable and recyclable packaging material.