Is abaca fibre biodegradable? (11 qualities of abaca) 

This article will cover the biodegradability status of abaca fibres. Other aspects that shall be shed light upon include: 

  • Is abaca fibre biodegradable?
  • Does the biodegradability of abaca lead to any compromise on quality or utility?
  • Is abaca fibre vegan?
  • How does abaca contribute to the garbage problem?
  • Does abaca production harm the environment?
  • Can you compost abaca fibre?
  • FAQs 

Is abaca fibre biodegradable?

Abaca fibre is biodegradable because it is made from natural sources. Abaca is a species of banana which is native to the Philippines. 

Abaca fibre can also be composted as long as it is ensured that it is not treated with harmful chemicals and is organic. 

Abaca fibre is vegan and no harm is given to animals during its production. However, abaca fibre products’ manufacturing may lead to environmental damage if it is done in an unsustainable substantiality and with the use of harmful agrochemicals. 

Can abaca fibre be degraded by microbes?

Let us first explore the biodegradability status of abaca plants to better know how green or sustainable the fibre is. Biodegradability is an important factor that can tell us a lot about the extent a product is eco-friendly or sustainable. 

Abaca fibres are sourced from abaca plants, a type or species of banana. Since abaca fibres are made from a natural source, it can very well be said that abaca fibres are biodegradable. 

Biodegradability is the breakdown of waste into simpler materials by the action of microbes. These microbes include bacteria, fungi, algae, protozoa, et cetera. 

Biodegradability ensures that there is no burden on the waste management systems and that these systems are dealt with in a sustainable and eco-friendly manner. 

This is a general rule of thumb that natural materials are more prone to biodegradation because of the presence of organic and nutritional content. 

Since abaca fibres have nutritional content in them, these microbes can break down abaca fibres into simpler structures in about two months. 

Therefore, it can very well be assumed and asserted that abaca fibres can be trusted and preferred by consumers who are keenly vary of the environmental impacts. 

A shift in biodegradable fibres such as abaca fibres will not only lead to a better economy but also there will be environmental benefits as well. 

Does the biodegradability aspect of abaca lead to any compromise on utility? (11 qualities of abaca) 

It is a common question or perhaps a myth that when the environment is preferred, the economy or utility has to be compromised. 

For example, plastic shoppers are cheap and nicely usable. They may also be used a couple of times before disposal but most of them are used a single time only. 

In comparison to plastic shoppers, we have shoppers or bags made from either bioplastics or other materials such as natural fibres. These options are comparatively more expensive. 

However, this assumption that preferring environmental interest will lead to any sort of compromise on the quality or budget is not the actual reality. For example, in the case of plastic bags example, although their counterparts (bags made from cloth or bioplastics) are more expensive, they also can be reused a number of times. 

As per a recent study, it was estimated that when a cotton bag is used some 131 times, its production environmental impact can be compensated or balanced. 

The same is the case for abaca fibres. Abaca fibres are not only biodegradable and sustainable, but they also deliver good utility. The following properties of abaca may attest to the said statement: 

  • High strength
  • Durability
  • Long-lasting
  • Porous 
  • Breathable
  • Weather resistant
  • Smooth texture
  • Flexible
  • Grease repellent
  • Water repellant 
  • Fire resistant 

Many of these traits or properties are not offered even by modern-day fibres made from synthetic chemicals or derivatives of fossil fuels. 

These qualities further assert that it is high time to shift toward natural sources that can deliver better utility if combined with technological advancement. 

A good example of this shift can be bioplastics. These materials are made from natural, plant-based or animal-based sources and deliver similar utility as compared to conventional plastics minus the environmental impact. 

Is abaca fibre vegan?

Yes, abaca is vegan and its production and commercialisation do not lead to the killing of animals. Abaca is a species of banana and hence the source from where the fibre is extracted is plant-source.  

One of the most sought questions regarding natural fibres is that do they cause any harm to wildlife or animals. The reason behind this proclivity is that most of the natural fibres (let us say leather) are extracted from animals which leads to animal killing. 

Not only does it lead to morality concerns and reservations but also there are environmental drawbacks that come with these inclinations. 

This is mainly because nature is deeply and profusely connected with all its aspects. All animals are a part of some food chain or food web. If there is the excessive killing of animals, the entire food chain may be affected. 

These effects can reciprocate into other domains as well. For example, when trees are cut, there are direct impacts of increased carbon retention and global warming in the atmosphere. 

However, the case of abaca fibres is not one of these. This is because abaca is a type of banana species. It is extracted from plant sources and therefore, there is no damage to the wildlife. 

How does abaca contribute to the garbage problem?

The answer to this question depends more on how carefully and properly products of abaca fibres are used and cared for. 

If abaca fibre products are used carefully and due instructions are followed, then abaca fibre is a long-lasting and durable material. 

This is mainly because of the natural and innate qualities of abaca such as mechanical strength, water repellent, fire resistance, et cetera. 

However, the problem is not just with the ability of abaca to be durable. The problem also is with people’s mindsets and approaches. 

With rising consumerism and surging trends in the fashion industry, people always want more and are travelling further from minimalism. This leads to huge waste generation even though the products are not used to full capacity. 

Therefore, it becomes incumbent on sociologists, psychologists, and environmentalists to join hands and preach a minimalist mindset and why is it necessary. 

Because even if abaca is durable, if people are not willing to use its products long term, there will be no use of the durability factor of abaca fibres. 

Does abaca production harm the environment?

Although it has been established that abaca fibres are biodegradable and sustainable, it does not rule out the possibility that abaca fibres can still be harmful and degradative to the environment. 

While the production process of abaca fibres is fairly simple and mostly hand-processed (especially in native regions such as the Philippines), there still may be a number of ways or routes that may cause environmental harm. 

This is because there still are a number of ways in which abaca fibre production may be harmful to the environment. Let us explore these ways: 

  • Excessive production of abaca fibres
  • Use of agrochemicals 

When abaca fibres are produced in more than a sustainable amount, there will be unnecessary pressure on the raw materials. This can degrade the producers’ ecosystem and the effects can reciprocate on every level of the food chain. 

For example, paper is also made from natural materials. But for a paper to be made, trees have to be cut. If there are unsustainable amounts of paper made, there will be excessive cutting of trees which can lead to environmental problems such as global warming, GHG retention, deforestation, destruction of habitats, and waterlogging problems. 

Another factor by which abaca production may be harmful is the use of agrochemicals such as fertilisers and pesticides. These products are made from chemicals that can seep into the soil and nearby water bodies. 

This can lead to effects on the aquatic and soil ecosystems and many species may be affected. The use of agrochemicals is also done to cope with the production demands and to gain more yield in less time. 

Therefore, it can be concluded that abaca fibre production can be harmful and degradative if it is substantially unsustainable and coupled with the use of agrochemicals. 

Can you compost abaca fibre?

A general rule of thumb is that the materials that are biodegradable can also be composted provided that they are not toxic or hazardous in any way. 

As for the case of abaca fibres, you can compost abaca fibres as long as these fibres are organic and not treated with harmful chemicals. 

Compost may be defined as dead organic matter that can be used as a natural fertiliser. This can lead to environmental benefits such as better water retention, increased soil fertility, and better yield. 

Usually, abaca fibre can be composted with one of the two approaches. One is called the hot method and the other is called the cold method. 

The former involves:

  • High temperature
  • More care and vigilance
  • Decreased chance of harmful microbes and pathogens 

The latter features:

  • Normal temperatures
  • Minimum care required
  • Increased chances of pathogens 

Conclusion

It is concluded that abaca fibre is biodegradable because it is made from natural sources. Abaca is a species of banana which is native to the Philippines. 

Abaca fibre can also be composted as long as it is ensured that it is not treated with harmful chemicals and is organic. 

Abaca fibre is vegan and no harm is given to animals during its production. However, abaca fibre products’ manufacturing may lead to environmental damage if it is done in an unsustainable substantiality and with the use of harmful agrochemicals. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Is abaca fibre biodegradable?

What are some products made from abaca fibre?

Some products made from abaca fibres include bags, papers and currency notes. Papers such as cigarette filter paper, sausage casing paper, and high-quality writing paper are made from abaca. Abaca is also used in the automotive industry. 

How much time abaca fibres will require to degrade?

Abaca fibres will degrade in about two months under natural conditions. The duration may vary based on external conditions and their dynamics. 

How is abaca dyed?

Conventionally, abaca is dyed from natural pigments extracted from natural sources such as loko tree. However, abaca may also be dyed from synthetic dyes in commercial setups. 

References

  • Unal, F., Avinc, O., & Yavas, A. (2020). Sustainable textile designs made from renewable biodegradable sustainable natural abaca fibres. In Sustainability in the Textile and Apparel Industries (pp. 1-30). Springer, Cham.
  • Bande, M. M. (2004). Development of Sustainable Abaca (Musa textiles Nee) Production in a Diversified Multi-strata Agroecosystem in Leyte, the Philippines (Doctoral dissertation, MS Thesis, University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart, Germany).

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