FROM BANANA WASTE TO RUGS: THE JOURNEY
Have you wondered how much waste is created to produce that yummy, fleshy, sweet banana that you love (or dislike)? Well, it’s in kilos. 1,000 kg of bananas produces 2,000 kg worth of waste!
What is this waste? The thick stem of the plant. Every stem produces fruit only once. Then it rots or catches a virus. In any case, farmers must burn the stems to get rid of them. That generates a lot of air pollution.
And this is a big problem in the African country of Uganda. Uganda is one of the largest consumers of bananas in the world. It produces millions of kilos of bananas per year. This means double the amount of banana waste.
But, don’t worry. Entrepreneur Kimani Muturi is doing something good about it. He is sure that as long as Uganda’s residents continue to eat bananas daily, he’ll never run out of banana waste to fulfill his ‘best out of waste’ idea. So, what is his idea? Let’s find out.
In 2013, Muturi founded TexFad, a Ugandan company that converts banana waste into rugs and placemats! His love of handweaving in college inspired this initiative. How cool is that?
Let’s see how the magic happens.
First, workers cut the banana stems into thin bands and leave them out to dry under the sun. The bands are fed into a machine to be turned into thin threads. But this machine is an expensive one. It’s one of the reasons why Muturi cannot expand his business quickly.
From this point onward, everything is done by hand. The thin fibers are dried until they turn into a silk-like yarn, but are still strong as ropes. Now’s the time to die the threads if needed. They finally go into the weaving shed to create the final handicraft.
Most of the rug designs reflect traditional East African patterns. Others are made-t0-order on client demand. Weaving is a tedious and delicate process. Even professional weavers can take up to a month to finish one rug.
As of now, TexFad has 23 employees. It even hires college interns to teach them the art and offer jobs. Ugandan children pursue higher education but are at a loss of career opportunities.
Banana textile has been around for ages in the countries of Nepal, the Philippines, and Japan. But Muturi is one of the first people to introduce it in Uganda. And the potential for the growth of banana fabric is huge here, as the country produces kilos and kilos of fruit every year.
Environmentalists believe that using banana waste as compost is a better solution for waste reduction than creating banana fiber. Compost will hydrate the soil and produce richer quality bananas. But chopping the thick stems requires a lot of effort. Hence, turning them into fabric seems like a better option. It could be the eco-friendly material the clothing industry is looking for.
Muturi believes in the green future of banana waste. And we’re with him!