A primer on natural fibers: Sustainable reinforcements for plastics


The use of natural fibres as reinforcing fillers in plastics is becoming increasingly popular among plastics processors, compounders and their customers, within the European Union and around the world. This trend has been driven by environmental concerns, increased recyclability and a move towards more sustainable products and processes. This paper, offered to PlasticsToday by Vanessa Gutiérrez Aragonés, one of the plastics experts in the compounding department of Spain's Aimplas plastics technical institute, offers insights into the fibers in use, their advantages and disadvantages, as well as some tips on compounding and processing plastics reinforced with these fibers.

Natural fibers: A definition for plastics processors

Natural fibers can be classified according to their origin, which can be vegetable, animal or mineral. The fibers cited in this paper used in the plastics industry come from vegetable sources, and most of them are part of agricultural wastes. They are composed of microfilaments of cellulose (70-75%) and hemicellulose (15-20%), bonded together by a matrix that can be pectin or lignin (3%). The later components degrade at a relatively low temperature, which limits the use of these fibers in thermoplastics....
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