In the past, banana fiber only has limited applications but due to increasing environmental awareness, it has penetrated different marketable products. From ropes, mats and other composite materials, it is now used as apparel garments and home furnishing and even fashionable bags.
The Japanese method in extracting banana fiber starts from the stage of plant cultivation. They cut the leaves and shoots of the banana to ensure softness. They then boil the harvested shoots in lye in preparation for fibers to be made into yarn. Each banana shoot can give fibers with varying degrees of softness. The rough fibers found on the outer part is suitable for home decors such as tablecloth. While the softest filaments come from the innermost part and are widely used for making kimono and kamishimo. For the Japanese, making banana cloth is a long process and each step is performed by hand.
In other countries such as Nepal, it’s the trunk that is harvested. The oldest bark is preferred; it goes through a softening process for mechanical extraction of the fibers, bleaching comes next of the process and then drying to extract the cellulose fibers. Once the chlorophyll has dissolved, the pulp is harvested then spun into yarn. The resulting fiber has the appearance similar to silk which has become popularly known as banana silk with an average fineness measuring 2400Nm. For color, the yarn is hand-dyed and made into high end rugs. These traditional rugs are hand-woven by women Nepalese weavers using the hand-knotted method.
Another way in extracting banana fiber, like in the Philippines, is manual fiber extraction. The banana stem is stripped by hand. They also use a stripping device that applies low pressure to prevent the fibers from breaking. There have already been several products made from Banana Fiber in the Philippines. Paper boards and tissue papers are also made out of Banana psuedostem.
Banana Fibers can be easily damaged, hence, one must be extra careful in doing so. Moreover, extracting a banana fiber manually is a tedious job that is why industries are currently using a special machine to do the job for them. This machine has two horizontal beams whereby a carriage with an attached and specially designed comb could move back and forth. Using this machine, it makes it easier to extract banana fiber, all they need to do is place a cleaned part of the banana stem on the fixed platform of the machine and clamp at the end by jaws. Through this, premature breakage of the fibers can be avoided because it can eradicate movement of the stem. The next step is to place the fibers in a chamber at 200C after it was cleaned and dried. The fibers are then labeled as it becomes ready for lamination. These fibers are then collected for yarn spinning followed by weaving as per normal process just like any other material. As we can see, this is the easiest way to extract banana fiber as doing it manually takes a lot of time.
Banana Fiber is better than bamboo fiber and ramie fiber because it is finer and easy to spin. Additionally, banana fiber is lighter; it is has a classy sheen and is a highly strong fiber. It absorbs and releases moisture easily and is proven eco-friendly. (Keith Manching)