Uganda is the largest producer of bananas in sub-Saharan Africa, and the disease-vulnerable fruit is now being utilized by a local startup to produce environmentally friendly products such as textiles, carpets, biodegradable hair extensions, a Reuters report explains.
TexFad is utilizing natural banana fiber that would otherwise go to waste. The startup, founded by Kimani Muturi, extracts the fiber from parts of the banana tree's trunks that would otherwise be burnt by farmers or thrown away after harvest.
TexFad's process sees banana tree trunks split in half with machetes and fed into cutting machines. These machines transform the trunks into long leathery fibers that are hung on lines to dry before being processed and used to make the company's eco-friendly products.
Muturi says he originally set out to find a way of utilizing the abundant waste generated by banana gardens every year. TexFad began experimenting with various uses of banana fibers, such as developing carpets, and hair extension products.
"The hair extensions we are making are highly biodegradable," Muturi told Reuters. "After using, our ladies will go and bury them in the soil and they will become manure for their vegetables," he continued.
Carpets and clothing made from 'fiber of the future'
There's much more to come, Muturi explained. The startup is also testing a process to soften banana fibers to the point where they could be used to produce clothing.
Muturi says he believes banana fiber is "the fiber of the future," and it might one day even be used to replace paper products such as bank notes.
TexFad isn't the only company to use banana fibers to develop eco-friendly products. India-based Tenith Innovations is using banana leaves to create products that would otherwise be made from environmentally damaging single-use plastics, such as cups, plates, and food boxes.
Still, the Uganda-based company is doing a good job of showing how such eco-friendly products can be the cornerstone for good business: TexFad expects to double its output of banana fiber carpets this year by making 2,400 of the items.
The firm employs 23 individuals and made approximately $41,000 in sales last year. It even plans to export carpets for the first time — to customers in the US, UK, and Canada — in June this year.