Ap-peeling fabrics: Micronesian company pioneers banana waste textiles

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In Micronesia, Green Banana Paper is repurposing waste banana fiber to make textiles as an alternative to resource-intensive cotton and non-renewable fibers.

Made from the stem of the banana tree, banana fiber is durable and has better spin ability, fineness and tensile strength than bamboo. The fibers can also be used to make textiles with a wide range of weight and thickness.

“Our fiber comes from the backyards of subsistence farmers across all the villages of Kosrae, [Micronesia],” Green Banana Planet founder Matt Simpson tells FashionUnited. “The tree stems would otherwise be wasted as banana trees fruit only one time per cycle and are removed to make room for new offshoots growing from the same root system.” Over a billion tons of banana tree stems are discarded annually.

There are limitations on what banana fiber can do, however.  “Unfortunately, our papers are not quite strong or stretchy enough to be used in super stressful applications where the item will be subjected to a lifetime of washings in a washing machine,” Simpson says. So far, the company makes wallets, purses, beads, and paper, but has not added garments like t-shirts or pants.