Is Hessian Biodegradable? (And Various Uses of it)

As the world is becoming more and more environmentally conscious, the need for green materials has never been more critical. Hessian fabric is one of those green materials, and it’s fast becoming a popular choice among various industries due to its durability, cheapness, and environmental benefits.

Hessian is a woven fabric made of natural fibers from the jute plant. It often has a coarse texture and is highly durable, breathable, and lightweight. Hessian was historically used as part of the uniform for German soldiers.

Nowadays, it’s doubtful that there’s a single home that doesn’t have hessian in one form or another. Whether it’s on your furniture as a cover or your walls as art or in your pantry, holding tons of potatoes or beans, hessian is the rave right now.

This fabric that comes in different types such as laminated hessian, dyed jute hessian, bituminized hessian, fire retardant hessian, and soft hessian, is highly versatile. And we can use it in various forms.

In this article, we’ll learn more about the uses of hessian, its environmental effects, and what is used in its manufacture. So, dive in!

What’s Hessian Made of?

Hessian fabric is also known as burlap. It’s an organic material made from roughly spun sisal fibers or the skin of a jute plant. The fibers are shiny and semi-strong and are spun together to create a coarse and strong thread.

The jute plants are first harvested by hand and are then defoliated. Then, using a retting process, non-fibrous material is extracted from the stem and the skin of the plant’s stalk.

This is done by joining the stems of the jute together and putting them slowly in running water. This process is used to soften the stalk, making it easier to remove the fibrous material from the non-fibrous one.

Next, the just stalk is combed into long strings. The retting process makes it possible to remove the long silky fibrous materials to comb these long strings.

After this is done, using an analog spinning process, the long strings are spun to become yarn. This analog process is familiar to most communities that process jute.

The yarn spun from jute is then put through many chemical processes to provide it with various characteristics such as; water resistance, color, fire resistance, or sound resistance. The jute yarn is then distributed to various textile or industrial production companies to be woven into industrial textiles. This is how hessian or jute fabric is produced.

Some manufacturers, however, further process the jute to reduce its roughness. But jute fiber used in industries can be used in its original form without processing it to become soft.

Is Hessian Fabric Biodegradable?

The simple answer to this question is yes. Hessian fabric is biodegradable. This is because it’s gotten from a natural plant called Jute. So, it’s an organic and sustainable material. Hessian doesn’t take as long as other biodegradable materials to break down. It takes a shorter time to break down and assimilate into the soil thoroughly.

The fundamental component of jute is cellulose and lignin. And cellulose can be decomposed by both bacteria and fungi. However, this is subject to the level of exposure to moisture or water.

Products made from jute naturally decompose faster based on soil contact and moisture levels. Other favorable conditions such as temperature, heat levels, exposure to light, and pH value also affect the degradation process.

The decomposition of jute is rapid and beneficial when it’s disposed of in landfills. This is because decomposed jute products improve the soil’s fertility by increasing its nutrient and biomass.

How Long Does Hessian Take to Decompose?

Hessian is biodegradable and breaks down quickly. But the decomposition of this organic product doesn’t happen overnight. It takes about 2 to 3 years for the hessian fabric to degrade completely. This is opposed to other materials that can take decades to break down.

However, it’s possible to speed up to decomposition process. We can do this by composting. All you have to do is make a hole in the compost pile and plant it in your garden. This way, your hessian will decompose in about 10 to 12 months.

So, if you have any hessian rice sacks or hessian wall décor that you want to get rid of, why not give back to the environment by composting it instead of just throwing it out?

You can also reuse your hessian fabrics that are old. One exciting way to reuse your old hessian materials is to turn them into wall décor. It can be wallpapers or pieces you cut up into wall art.

You can also use them to redecorate your couches or as table cloths for your dining tables. Or you can use them to turn them into mini purses for your gadgets like your hones or tablets. You can even turn it into an apron when you have to do dirty jobs. All you have to do is get creative with whatever you decide.

Is Hessian Environmentally Friendly?

Biodegradable plastics are fast becoming the first choice among users, but none is more environmentally friendly than Hessian fabric – its eco-friendliness makes it very popular. This is why you can go to the supermarket and find a majority of the shoppers with hessian shopping bags.

Hessian is, first of all, gotten from easy to grow plant known as jute. Jute is easy to grow and requires little tending and water for development. The plant also doesn’t need to be cultivated with fertilizers and chemicals. The jute plant also matures very fast, between 5-6 months, and is a renewable source.

The cultivation of the jute plant also helps improve the fertility of the soil, which in turn helps in the growth of other crops.

This occurs because jute grows in alluvial soil, which is deposited from flowing streams. It’s also a result of the jute plant being rotated. Therefore, the successive crops have more nutrients and fewer cases of pest infestation.

Jute plant also grows in tropical areas and relies primarily on rainwater to grow. So, it requires little irrigation.

Jute also absorbs CO2 from the environment, releases oxygen faster than trees, and has natural UV protection. We can also use the wooden core of the jute plant to provide for most manufacturing the wood needs.

The cultivation of jute plants for wood, paper, bags, furniture, and other industrial purposes, reduces the use of harmful plastics drastically. Also, jute plant cultivation can boost the economy of those living in such communities.

Is Hessian Toxic?

Hessian fabric is made from jute, and this makes it easily flammable. However, it doesn’t release any toxic fumes or harmful gases when burnt. However, many hessian fabrics being produced nowadays are slightly less flammable than the previous ones but are just as non-toxic.

Various Uses of Hessian Fabric

The benefits of hessian fabric are endless. The fabric is very versatile and is constantly in high demand because manufacturers can use it to make a wide variety of things. And new uses are being discovered all the time. Below are a few benefits of hessian fabrics:

1. Food Packaging and Shipping

Food packaging gets better and easier as technology progresses. We’ve developed several options for this process, and hessian is one of them.

Typically, this material is excellent for packaging food materials such as beans, potatoes, rice, grains, coffee, flour, etc. Especially those that are to be shipped and transported.

Its breathability prevents it from causing damage to such consumables. Its strength and the density of its fibers make it possible to carry large amounts of loads and withstand rough handling.

2. Furniture and Decoration

The decorative aspect of hessian fabric is more utilized in modern times because it helps prevent dust and liquid spillage, and the material is breathable. And so, it’s now a prevalent choice among interior designers as they use it on furniture such as couches, dining chairs and tables, runners, and for dining place-mats.

We can also use it to make drapes, rugs, wall hangings, cushions, lampshades, ottomans, mats, and curtains. The open weave that characterizes most hessian fabrics allows it to be embroidered. And its absorbency will enable it to be painted on. Hessian also absorbs sound and is perfect for soundproofing.

The density of its fibers allows it to be used on notice/message boards, bottle covers, book covers, bags, and any other creative work.

And due to its rustic-looking appearance, decorators have begun to use it as aesthetics for events such as weddings and other parties. It can also be used as costumes and historical props. 

3. Flood Control and Prevention

Sandbags are a quick and temporary method for creating barriers for preventing and controlling floods. Hessian fabrics are an excellent, low-cost solution for creating and transporting sandbags used for flood control. This is because hessian fabrics are strong and can hold large amounts of sand.

4. Gardening and Agriculture

Hessian is used in gardening because it’s an organic material and is compostable. The natural look of the material makes it perfect for your garden.

It can be used as mulch to help retain moisture and reduce soil erosion, and can also help to prevent the growth of weeds naturally. Hessian can also be added to your compost heap to help improve your soil’s richness. 

Hessian fabric can also be used to make seeds sprout faster. Keeping the area moist and preventing evaporation stops the seeds from washing away when it starts raining.

Use the hessian to wrap up your plants during the winter to protect them from the harsh winds. We can also use old hessian sacks to make plant pots because they can resist extreme weather and are flexible and light.

5. Frost and Heat Protection

Hessian fabrics have good thermal retention features. This allows it to perfectly protect cement, mortar, concrete, or plants from the adverse effects of the cold during the winter. It’s also great for protecting cement against heat. All you have to do is wet the hessian to prevent it from easily drying out.

6. Other Uses

Asides from the primary uses we’ve mentioned, hessian can be used for other minor functions such as games; you can use your old hessian sacks for sack races, scarecrows for your farm or garden, gift wrap, flower bags, etc. Some people even use it as a fashionable alternative to denim.


Hessian is one material that we’re sure can’t go out of vogue anytime soon. Its versatility, as well as its eco-friendliness, is making it even more popular among agriculturalists, homemakers, and industrial manufacturers.

If you’re looking to go green, you need not look far as this material is cheap and readily available. This material is a valuable asset for the fight against the usage of harmful plastics.

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About Rinkesh

A true environmentalist by heart ❤️. Founded Conserve Energy Future with the sole motto of providing helpful information related to our rapidly depleting environment. Unless you strongly believe in Elon Musk‘s idea of making Mars as another habitable planet, do remember that there really is no 'Planet B' in this whole universe.