We had an inspiring conversation with Jeroen Bos. Jeroen was responsible for developing an industrial scale sustainable technology to obtain bast fibers like hemp for textile end-use for Swedisch furniture retailer IKEA. Early in his career he started to work for Nike as a textile engineer and has been working in this field for over 10 years. Jeroen has developed unique expertise in working with bast fibers since he started working with Netl.; a dutch company working with nettle fibers.




Together with Jeroen we share the mission to generate renewed appreciation for natural fibers and to stimulate their use within the textile industry. It would be great if more sustainable natural fibers such as hemp and nettle will be used for products. In order to add to the sustainability of value chains for textile products, we asked Jeroen what we should focus to reach attain processes in the chains that are truly better for our world.

The textile industry has grown out to be one of the most polluting industries in the world. This has several causes such as the excessive waste of water, excess raw material usage, excessive land use and the use of many harmful chemicals. Of all these issues, water wastage might very well be the largest problem at the moment. Besides that process water ends up in nature as wastewater, which contains many of the used chemicals and harmful substances. The patent that Jeroen has developed – also known as innovative water retting – is based on a bio-fermentation principle. In order for the process to actually have a minimal environmental impact, it was necessary to handle process water responsibly. Jeroen told us:

“I worked towards a sort of closed loop system, where the process water that is being used to make your biomass rot, becomes purified afterwards and then reused again, if you will.”

Based on our conversation with Jeroen, it seems that the complete removal of waste, or completely excluding chemicals is an over-idealistic pursuit. Of course this does not alter the fact that we must continue to work towards this ideal, in order to continuously gradually improve our processes, technologies and the efficient reusing of waste.


What can we do now in order to gradually improve our industrial processes?

“My opinion is that you may want to have everything 100% green with 100% sustainable dyes and chemicals, but the most important thing is to take your responsibility for the damage your process or waste has on nature. Investing in the recovery of your process substances or water purification with zero discharge is just as important. It’s about not simply throwing everything away, without looking back at it anymore, the actual costs the entirety of your product’s production has should be included; and therefore also the costs with regards to the environmental damage to the end product. If that happens, for example, cotton will suddenly be much more expensive, which means that cleaner alternatives such as hemp can compete.”

The established order of companies are already deeply invested in certain raw materials, so for them it probably costs the most to make the switch to a more ecologically responsible production.

Does the responsibility then, to organize it in a sustainable manner, lie with the startups?

“That would be an easy way out for the older generation. Which would then say: we are facing climate change and many problems arise out of this, let’s let our children take care of this. Considering most startups consist of younger people. While it is true that startups are probably better at creating support for the difficult environmental issues and tend to have the enthusiasm and courage to change things. However we are talking about a full fledged industry here. An industry change will have to occur, and this will require the younger and older generation to work together. After all, there is also a lot of expertise in this industry among the older generation.”

As HMPLB we want to commit ourselves to this industry change. Let’s think about ways to save water, minimise chemicals and waste and produce in an honest and responsible manner. We hope that the conversation we have had with Jeroen has an inspiring effect on anyone reading this. Together we can create a balance between people, earth and economy.

 

Besides creating premium hemp products, we believe it’s very important to inform you about hemp as a natural resource and to engage you in our journey. And that’s what our platform and the concept of “HMPLB in conversation with:” is all about. We will initiate meaningful conversations with professionals, entrepreneurs, growers/cultivators, researchers, consumers, enthusiasts and generally interesting people within the fields of hemp and sustainability. Feel inspired, and know that you are also a part of these series, so if you have any questions, ideas or input regarding the challenges and topics mentioned within these conversations, simply send us a message! Hopefully by sharing knowledge it will allow us all to gain a deeper understanding of the value chain around hemp and the endless potential hemp provides.


Sources

Jeroen Hugo BOS, Jan-Olof FECHTER, Cottonization by biodigestion of packed fibrous biomass: https://patents.google.com/patent/WO2017103092A2/un


Definitions

bast fibers

Bast fibers are fibers that occur in the stems of plants. In the cross-section of the stem one distinguishes an air channel, the pith, the cambium, the bast fiber layer and a thin brace. The bast fiber layer provides the very important fibers for the textile industry.

Examples of plants used for the bast fiber are flas (which is used to make linen), hemp, jute, kenaf, kudzu, linden, silk plant, nettle, okra, paper mulberry, ramie and roselle hemp.

Dewood

removing the wooden parts surrounding the fiber from bast fibers, so that the pure fiber is obtained./p>

closed loop water system

closed industrial water cycle, in which the process water is reused, instead of the water leaving the process and being discharged as waste water. An integrated water purification system must also be present within the process, so that the quality of the water remains suitable for reuse.

circular

246/5000 A term often used by construction authorities to describe products that are fully recyclable after use. After the recycling process, the products can be used again for the same purposes. This makes the circle round again in a manner.

hackling

Making plantfibers suitable for spinning threads with the help of dislike. Pretreatment in rope production. With the hackling, the fibers are cleaned of contamination and combed into a long, smooth bundle..

Scrutching

an operation of flax and hemp in which, after the hard shell of the stem has been broken, it is removed by passing the fibers between two mills turning against each other..

Roten

Roten is het blootstellen van vlas-, hennep- of jutestengels aan water, opdat de vezels vrijkomen, die gebruikt worden in de textielindustrie

Biovergisting

101/5000 A consortium of different types of micro-organisms converts biomass into biogas through fermentation.

 

 

“We lived under the assumption that what is good for us, is good for the world, We were wrong! We must change our lives, so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption that what is good for the world will be good for us. And that requires that we make the effort to know the world and to learn what is good for it. We must learn to cooperate in its processes, and to yield to its limits.” - Wendell Berry