What CAN'T You Make out of Cotton?

What can you make with 100 kg of cotton?

  •          100 pairs of jeans
  •          550 men’s t-shirts
  •          3,000 diapers
  •          130,000 $100 bills
  •          300,000 cotton balls

It also can be used to make coffee filters, soap, salad dressing, tents, book bindings, fishing nets and cosmetics!

A Snack for People and Livestock

Not only is cotton an efficient water user, it offers one unique advantage: It provides both food and fibre. Cottonseed accounts for 2/3 of a harvest's weight and is used to make an edible oil and animal feed. No other agricultural crop can say that!

Who Needs Dyes?

 Naturally coloured cotton comes in multiple shades, including green, red, and various shades of brown (a very light blue shade also has been reported in Uzbekistan). The natural colour develops once the boll opens and exposes the lint to sunlight. Naturally coloured cotton has some shortcomings — the yields are relatively low, and the fibres tend to be shorter and weaker — but many believe that it feels even softer on the skin than traditional white cotton. There’s even evidence that clothes made from naturally pigmented cotton provide protection from the sun’s UV radiation, and studies have shown that cotton fibre with brown pigmentation even has long-lasting antibacterial properties!

Making the Most of By-products

Cotton has a lot more to offer than mere fibre. Longer fibres are usually the ones used to make textiles, but cotton is a team player and can do much more than provide a soft, comfortable fabric. Shorter fibres, for example, are ideal for surgical-grade absorbent cotton. Shorter fibres also produce nanocellulose, which can be used to manufacture wound dressings and cosmetics. When short fibres are derived from mill waste, they are commonly called “comber noil”. Comber noilfibres can be used as a raw material to make technical textiles, medicated cotton, ear buds, waddings, security paper, currency notes, blends for coarse yarn, and in open-end spinning to make denim. Cotton stalks also have a role in food production, where they can be used to grow edible mushrooms or serve as compost. In many developing countries, cotton stalks are used as firewood, but studies have shown that they can also be utilised to generate power on a commercial level. Cotton stalks can even serve as an alternative building material, because their high cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin content makes them an excellent option for producing composite boards, pulp and paper. 

Cottonseed Oil? No Trans-Fats Here!

More than 50 million tons of cotton seed are produced annually, but less than 1% of that total is actually used to plant cotton. Much of it is crushed to extract oil. Cotton seed oil is trans-fat-free because it does not contain linolenic acid and does not require hydrogenation. Its higher saturation and greater content of gamma- and delta-tocopherols make it more stable. About 56% of the cotton seed oil consumed in the USA is used in salad dressings and cooking oil. About 36% goes into baking and frying fats, and a small percentage goes into margarine and other uses. Another valuable characteristic of cotton seed oil, especially for chefs and bakers: It does not impart its own flavour to food. 

Ready-Made for Technical Applications

Cotton: It can do a lot more than keep your legs warm ... for example, it can be the primary material used in manufacturing a prosthetic knee! Don't overlook the future of natural fibres in technical textiles — not to mention joint replacement! Researchers are further exploring the use of cotton to block the sun's UV rays, in a variety of water-based applications, and as an antibacterial material!



Cotton Isn't the Problem with Cotton Buds

The skyrocketing amount of plastic trash is unquestionably a scary situation, and the calls to ban plastics straws and “cotton buds” are worth considering. However, note that in this context, "cotton bud" refers to the plastic stem, NOT the cotton swabs themselves. Also, many manufacturers have replaced the plastic stems with paper ones to minimise their environmental impact.


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A 9-to1 Return on Land

Talk about efficiency! Cotton occupies a mere 3% of the world's agricultural area -- yet it meets 27% of the world's textile needs. That's getting your fibre's worth! Globally, cotton's land use has remained relatively constant over the past 50 years, but the volume of fibre produced has increased. In other words, cotton growers are producing more cotton without planting on more land.

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Cotton's Advantages in 3D

Additive manufacturing has evolved from a pipe dream to a hotbed of innovation. Cotton-based filaments are appealing to 3D printers because they:

  •          Conduct heat well
  •          Get stronger when they're wet
  •          Are more scalable than materials like wood pulp


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Want Sleep? Choose Cotton Sheets

The people have spoken: Whether working or resting, cotton is #1! The majority of consumers say cotton is the best fabric for activewear, and more than 2 out of 3 say that 100% cotton sheets offer the best night’s sleep. 

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Cotton Plays a Global Role

Although about 80 percent of the world’s production comes from Brazil, China, India, Pakistan, the United States and Uzbekistan, cotton is grown in more than 100 countries – and it provides an income to hundreds of millions of people around the world every year.

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