Bast fibre, also called phloem fibre, is collected intact from the inner bark of the bast family group of plants including hemp, flax, jute and kenaf. The essential role of the fiber in the plant's life cycle – the transportation of nutrients while supporting the structure of the plant – also provides key performance benefits such as high natural absorbency and wet strength, critical for many nonwoven products.
Nonwovens are high tech engineered fabrics made from many different fibers and used in both consumer and industrial applications. Nonwoven products are found in almost every aspect of daily life and society including absorbent hygiene products, cleaning wipes and tea bags.
With many countries set to introduce strict legislation aimed at significantly reducing single-use plastics, the nonwoven industry recognizes the urgent need to find alternative fibers that are natural and fully sustainable. Most of the fiber used in the nonwoven industry today is either synthetic or semi-synthetic. Enhanced labelling requirements will soon inform consumers in many countries about the appropriate disposal of synthetic nonwovens and the negative impacts single-use plastics have on the environment.
"Over the last few years we have been working very closely with our farming and supply chain partners who share our goal of transitioning the nonwoven industry away from synthetic fibers to natural bast fibers," says Noel Hall, CEO and chairman BFTi. "Displacing man-made synthetic fibers with all-natural fibers such as hemp requires an intimate knowledge of agronomics, natural fiber processing and deep technical knowledge of both nonwoven manufacturing processes and market opportunities.
"Georgia-Pacific's foresight in recognizing the potential of bast fibers in the nonwoven market is to be applauded. Georgia-Pacific appreciated that we were best placed to maximize the global potential of its bast fiber IP while allowing Georgia-Pacific to focus on serving its core customers in the North American food service, industrial and club segments with their own portfolio of bast fiber products."
The recent passing of favorable hemp farming legislation in Canada and the U.S. is expected to provide future hemp fiber supply volumes that will be required to support the transition away from synthetic to natural fiber for many single-use nonwoven markets.
BFTi will be exhibiting and speaking about its fibers at Index 2020 in Geneva, Switzerland, from March 31 – April 3, 2020.