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Coir Fibre: Sustainability, Benefits, Manufacturing

Coconut is very versatile and can be used to make food or other items such as coir fibres. Some of the most frequently asked questions about coir fibre are answered here.

What is Coir fibre?

Coir is a natural fibre derived from the mesocarp tissue or the husk of coconut shells. It is abundant in the tropics. Coir is also known as ‘The Golden Fibre’ because of its golden color after it is taken out of the shell and cleaned. It is known worldwide as the oldest textile in history.

How is coir fibre made?

There are a series of processes involved in the manufacturing of coir fibre –

  1. Harvesting and Husking

Coconuts that have fallen off the tree are picked and the rest are harvested by climbers. The coconuts are placed on spikes with steel tips to split the shell. The pulp layer is peeled off. 

  1. Retting

Retting is a curing process that keeps the shells in an environment that stimulates the activity of naturally occurring microorganisms which partially breaks down the pulp, allowing it to be separated into coir fibres and a residue called coir pith. It usually takes 6 to 10 months. Mechanical technology allows the ripe husks to be processed in a crushing machine after 7-10 days of retting.

  1. Defibering

Traditionally, workers pound the retted pulp with wooden mallets to separate the fibres from the pith and the outer casing, or even use a motorized machine consisting of a rotating drum equipped with steel spikes. Then these fibres are washed and combed.

The clean fibres are loosely spread on the ground and dried in the sun.

  1. Finishing
  • The bristle fibres are rolled and tied into loose bundles for storage or shipment and the mattress fibres are packed using a hydraulic press. 
  • Traditional manual techniques and new mechanical methods are used to braid twine into ropes and yarn into nets or carpets.

What are the types of coir fibre?

Coconut fibres are classified on the basis of age and length.

Based on age-

  1. Brown fibre- Derived from mature coconuts, they are thick, strong and highly resistant to abrasion.
  2.  White fibre- Derived from unripe coconuts, fine and smooth, but weak. 

Based on length-

  1. Bristle fibre: These are long fibres.
  2. Mattress fibre: These are fibres are relatively short 
  3. Decorticated fibres: These are mixed fibres.

What are the benefits of coir fibre?

  • Coconut fibre is environmentally friendly and biodegradable. It comes from a renewable source and is resistant to mold and decay.
  • It is strong and durable. It is the only fibre that is waterproof and resistant to saltwater damage.
  • This fibre dries quickly and absorbs moisture 50% faster than polyester.
  • It absorbs odors naturally and minimizes odors without additional processing or chemicals.
  • Even after washing several times, it absorbs harmful UV rays and has a UV protection effect.
  • It provides excellent thermal and sound insulation.

What are the uses of coir fibre?

  1. Spun white coir is used in the manufacture of ropes.
  2. Brown coir is used to make carpets, mats, and mattresses.
  3. Coir mesh geotextile is durable, water-absorbing, sun-resistant, promotes seed germination, and is 100% biodegradable.
  4. Coir peat, a mill residue, is gaining commercial importance as a mulch, soil treatment and hydroponics medium.
  5. Coir is also used for furniture, idols, sofas, toys, brushes, cosmetics and more.

Can coir fibre be used in apparel?

The use of coir in clothing can be accomplished by mixing it with polyester. This blend of fibres creates garments that offer UV protection while drying quickly and keeping you cool at the same time. It is most commonly used in sportswear but is gradually being used in other categories as well. Cocona fabric is made from coconut husks that have been recycled into activated carbon, which is used in clothing. 

Is coir fibre sustainable?

Coir is sustainable if it is organic. The source of coconut fibre is natural and therefore biodegradable. The production requires minimal land and energy use. The manufacturing process does not kill animals or contaminate the soil, water or plants.

Photo by Rajesh Ram on Unsplash