An African company has come up with an innovative way of turning deadly banana waste into profit. This, while helping to mitigate the devastating environmental impact, including excessive emission of greenhouses gases.
In the past, many people across the globe believed that there was not much that one could do with waste. This is why as much as 114 million tonnes of banana waste ended up in landfills, according to a Swiss research report.
Now, Ugandan farmers have found creatives ways of not only recycling banana waste, but actually turning the waste into high-quality, sustainable textiles, carpets, and, yes, even hair extensions.
After harvesting, the trunk-like banana stem called pseudo stem is usually discarded since it doesn’t grow again. This is regarded as a wasteful form of agriculture compared to other fruit crops because only 12% of the plant is used.
Transforming waste into textiles
TaxFad, an Ugandan producer of handwoven textiles, took to extracting the fibre from the banana trunk, creating jobs in the process which helps to feed many families in the east-central African country. The company produces handmade textiles and offers opportunities for work-based, non-formal skills training programmes targeting youths and women.
The headquarters of TexFad is in the outskirts of Kampala, where every waste part of the banana is transformed into tough fibre that can be woven into various products like carpets, textile, and hand-spun yarn.
The company transforms waste banana pseudo stems and other waste materials into high-quality sustainable textile products.
According to the company’s website, Uganda is one of the world’s largest banana producers and a world leader in banana consumption.
TexFad founder Kimani Muturi says the company is testing out several uses of banana fibres. “The hair extensions we are making are highly biodegradable. After using, our ladies will go and bury them in the soil, and they will become manure for their vegetables.”
How the magic happens
Now, how do Muturi and his company turn the banana trunk into fibre?
According to an article on High Tech Prod, workers cut the stems into slender chunks and leave them out to dry in the sun, and then they feed those ropes into an extractor.
“This is an integral step and the only part of the process that requires machinery, and it’s not cheap. The extracted fibres are dried again until they feel like silky yarn but as strong as a rope; at this point, it’s also ideal for dying. The ultimate stop is the weaving shed, where the making of household goods and handicrafts starts up,” the article reads.
Turns out TexFad isn’t the only company to turn banana waste into eco-friendly products. Australian researchers developed a method that transforms banana agri-waste into non-toxic, biodegradable, and recyclable bioplastic packaging material.
A Brazilian university student, Rafaella de Bona Gonçalves, developed biodegradable banana fibre tampons for homeless women in 2019.
Sign up for Mzansi Today: Your daily take on the news and happenings from the agriculture value chain.