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|Friday, December 03, 2010|
Portland-headquartered Naturally Advanced Technologies announced this week that it will begin using flax to make organic thread with the same patented technology the company uses to process hemp.
Cotton is priced at $1.26 per pound and hemp costs between $1.25 and $1.50 per pound. The Crailar flax-cotton blend can be sold for $0.80 to $0.90 to textile manufacturers. It is below the dollar barrier. Previously, the consumer had to make a financial sacrifice to purchase sustainable, eco-friendly products. No longer, Barker said. The price will allow companies from WalMart to Adidas to give its customers sustainable thread.
In 2005, the U.S. Department of Agriculture conducted a study to see if flax made denim was more comfortable for summer months. The results gave promise to the apparel industry and the enzyme process of the Crailar technology removes the creasing and hard feel of normal linen. Even so, the product still wicks moisture and has a high tensile strength. The new thread makes clothes indiscernible to the touch from cotton, says Barker.
Unlike hemp, farmers may legally grow flax in the U.S., eliminating transport-related costs, pollution and waste. NAT’s 40,000 square foot South Carolina facility, used to conduct the USDA tests in 2005, has 300 acres of flax fields adjacent the factory.
Through the Crailar process NAT can process twice as much fiber per acre compared to hemp. In South Carolina the company densely plants the crops to produce a taller thinner fiber suitable for cotton-like products.
The new fiber had to be a plug and play for the cotton industry, Barker said. Both the hemp and flax yarn are spun on traditional cotton equipment.
Jacq Lacy is an associate writer for Oregon Business.
* - UPDATE (1 pm December 3): An earlier version of this article contained an error. NAT is a publicly owned company. It is not owned by Meriwether Group.
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