Indian officials are pushing to reopen jute factories that have laid dormant for decades, since cheaper synthetic fibers were introduced. They hope the eco-friendly material can be used in shopping bags, furnishings, clothing, diapers, and feminine hygiene products. Researchers have also been working to engineer bacteria to that soften the jute fibers.
“We are hoping it will explode — that the world will wake up to all the benefits of jute,” Lata Bajoria, owner of the world’s largest jute mill, tells LA Times.
Jute is extracted from the bark of a tall plant similar to reeds. It requires less water than cotton and few pesticides and is biodegradable. Jute cultivation and processing also creates numerous jobs in the Kolkata region.