Sustainability is the buzzword of the day. Everyone is looking to reduce environmental impacts and create products using "green" methods and materials. This year, Nonwovens Industry published an article about a company using pineapple leaves to develop a sustainable nonwoven fabric as a leather alternative. The company uses a needlepunch technology to convert extracted fibers from the leaves into nonwoven fabric. They hope to offer their product to converting manufacturers this year.
Is this the way we should all be thinking?
There are benefits to utilizing natural products to create nonwoven fabrics.
- It can eliminate a step or two in the manufacturing process, thereby reducing the manufacturing impact on the environment.
- Off-gassing worries are eliminated with the use of natural products.
- It’s sustainable. Living within the means of our existing environment is becoming more and more important to society as a whole. Using materials that already occur in nature is one way to reduce the manufacturing footprint.
Those are all great reasons to look to natural products as a source of raw materials for nonwoven products. But, for nonwoven manufacturers, there are still some challenges to overcome.
- The process can be expensive. New or revised technologies must be put into place to extract the materials you need and to then convert those extracted materials into nonwoven fabrics.
- The material is untested. Companies can spend a lot of money developing a new fabric only to find that the end-use material doesn’t work as effectively in products as traditional materials.
It’s important for all of us to consider different ways to reduce our environment impact and develop sustainable products. Most manufacturers are already incorporating sustainability practices within their manufacturing processes and developing sustainable products is the next reasonable step in the evolution of manufacturing. What we now need to focus on is reducing the cost of manufacturing for these products and developing testing procedures to ensure that the products will perform as required.
Sustainability is important to all of us. It will be exciting to see what natural products will be used in nonwoven fabrics five, ten and 20 years from now!