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Bamboo and Plantains Could Be Turned into Textiles in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka wants to diversify its fabric exports.

The country’s official government news portal revealed on Monday that the Southern Provincial Industries Ministry is seeking the assistance and cooperation of Ruhuna University’s Faculty of Agriculture. The goal: to produce textiles using fiber taken from bamboo and plantain trees.

According to EcoPlanet Bamboo, the textile industry is responsible for one million acres of global deforestation. As the world’s fastest growing plant, bamboo can help restore degraded lands and, in most locations, needs no irrigation or fertilizers. Its stalks, meanwhile, contain bast fibers that can be processed into a type of linen.

Plantains, a popular food in the banana family, are plentiful in Sri Lanka, especially in rural areas. Once the fruit is harvested, the rest of the stem becomes waste, despite research indicating that it would take only 37 kilograms (82 pounds) to produce one kilogram (or 2.2 pounds) of fiber that can then be woven into a soft fabric, ideal for jackets, skirts and trousers.

So, rather than importing massive amounts of raw materials—mostly from India—to meet the demands of Sri Lanka’s growing apparel industry, the government instead wants to harness the power of its natural resources and differentiate its offering from the rest of the Southeast Asian market.

The ministry is also looking into using fiber from wetakeiya and pineapple trees for textile production.