Natural fibers are increasingly being seen as the best choice for many paper and composite products. Cotton fiber is a commodity selling for 0.50 cents per lb. ($1000/ton).
Dimensions of some natural fibers:
One market segment is the composites industry.
Many types of fibers are used in the process of creating composites. Natural fibers offer significant advantages to the composite building process. Due to the porosity of natural fibers, some manufacturing benefits may be realized over synthetic fibers. There is a further advantage in equipment wear and tear-synthetic fibers tend to degrade expensive molds rapidly, while natural fibers almost have a lubricating effect and thus prolong the useful life of equipment.
The average new automobile contains 300 pounds of fiber, which historically has been mostly synthetic. Products such as door panels, moldings, insulation, carpeting, fabrics etc. are all enhanced and strengthened using natural fibers. The use of “green” materials in the manufacturing process is federally mandated and certain percentages must be achieved in order to maintain compliance.
The aerospace and aviation industries are also attracted to natural fibers due to the toxicity of synthetic substances when they burn. It has been claimed that many people have died in what would have been survivable crashes, except for the fumes inhaled from toxic substances burning.
A second market segment is the pulp and paper industry. In 1993, world non-wood pulping capacity was 21 million metric tons, 10.6 percent of world paper making capacity. In 1991 the market value of well-cleaned, bleached non-wood fiber pulp is $1,800 to $2,400, with not so well-cleaned, unbleached non-wood fiber pulp selling for $1,200 to $1,800 per metric ton.3 A strong marketing opportunity exists in the recycled paper industry. Each time paper is recycled the fibers are shortened. It is necessary to add virgin fiber to obtain suitable strength. Kenaf fibers are ideally suited to this application.
A third market segment for fiber is the textile industry. To learn more about these market segements, choose a category below.