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Cotton, polyester … and okra

Swatches | July 1, 2022 | By:

Stem waste from the okra plant is blended with cotton and polyester to form a new hybrid textile. Photo: Dileep Kaluaratchie

Many commercial textiles today are made of cotton and polyester blends and can be found in everything from T-shirts to canvas products. But researchers in Lahore, Pakistan, are adding a new ingredient to the list: okra. The stem waste from okra—also known as ladyfingers—is being used to create value-added textile products. The research was led by Professor Muhammad Mohsin, chairman of the textile engineering department at the University of Engineering and Technology (UET) in Lahore, Pakistan. 

“Okra fiber is not only cheaper than cotton, but the raw material is easily available, has high strength and reduces waste,” says Mohsin.

Pakistan is the third-largest producer of okra in the world, resulting in stem waste of approximately 335mkg annually. The okra stem waste is blended with cotton and yarn and produced at a UET spinning lab, which is the first of its kind in Pakistan. The fabric is produced and dyed with natural dye by using proprietary technology, therefore making the whole process bio-based and organic.

“Top brands are asking for sustainable products and willing to pay the premier price,” says Mohsin. “This technology is not only sustainable, but it can make the Pakistani textile industry more competitive and attractive.” 

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