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How to replace plastic fibers? Mexicans rediscover the forgotten plant

Mexican farmers from the Yucatan Peninsula recall the times when natural plastic ropes were knotted instead of artificial plastic fibers. The fiber obtained from the local agave variety could become an affordable and environmentally friendly plastic substitute in the future. She writes about the America web.

The word Henequén, which refers to natural fibers obtained from Agave fourcroydes agave , is now in the world blooming in all falls. This is because it can become an important natural substitute for artificial, plastic fibers. As? The agave is, by and large, an undemanding plant, which can only be grown in dry subtropical / tropical conditions. Usually on non-viable and over-grounded land which, from an agricultural point of view, has no other use. It could be solid, for example, in Africa, Australia or some parts of Asia. Thus, in places where organic alternatives to plastic are scarce. Its cultivation could lay the foundation for the sustainable production of natural fibers for textile and industrial processing. Henequen could replace part of the consumption of plastics and at the same time improve the living standards of the local population.

The whole phenomenon of henequen is interesting because it is by no means a novelty. His mats, nets, bags, and ropes were already patched by the old Mayans. Crude and solid material also touched upon European colonizers who supported the cultivation of useful agave in the following centuries. In 1916, Mexico produced 200,000 tons of such fibers, and a number of Caribbean countries were involved in cultivation. But then there was an attenuation: artificial fibers came into fashion, and the yucatan adventures with Agave ceased to be profitable on both sides. The occupation of hacendado, the agave fiber processors, has become a surplus of the past. For the next hundred years, the cultivation of Agave fourcroydes has been reduced to a minimum, and today in Mexico, the fiber from the soaked and pressed leaves can only be isolated in fifteen historic rural facilities. But time has changed again. Plastics and man-made fibers are now at bay and Mexican farmers are trying to revive the original model.


The biggest investment and interest comes from China

"It's a very noble plant, it kind of reflects the nature of the local," says Raul Espinoza, one of the last hacendados. "It grows in hard conditions, it is durable, beautiful. It's hard to work with her, she wants exercise and skill to keep her from getting rid of her thorns. "But her qualities are unquestionable and the future is promising. "Our government has now prepared an extensive program to support the cultivation and production of henequen, which can be in the first stage at 13,000 hectares," says Luis Novelo, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development. "We are now ready to accept any order." In China, Mexican natural resources are particularly interested in Mexican natural fiber production, which is investing a lot of money in Mexican revival. If the trade really started on an international basis, golden times could come again in Yucatan. And growing experience could be applied to other tropical regions of the world.

Author: Radomír Dohnal

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