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Jason Finnis
Jason Finnis
Executive VP, Chief Innovation Officer & Co-Founder

Interview with Jason Finnis

Our goal is to become the leading natural fibre solution for global nonwoven industry

Bast Fibre Tech (BFT) produces 100 per cent plant-based, intact natural fibres with the technical and performance requirements for a wide variety of nonwoven applications. The company is working to fill the critical need for sustainable alternatives to man-made fibres. In an interview with Shilpi Panjabi, Bast Fibre Tech Executive VP, Chief Innovation Officer & Co-Founder Jason Finnis discusses the company’s progress and future goals.

TT: BFT has already made headways in Europe and North America through key acquisitions in the last few years. What is the company's annual production capacity today?

The past two years have seen BFT invest in capacity in both Europe and the US. These acquisitions allow BFT to ‘grow, process and sell’ within the same geographic region thereby lowering our supply chain complexity, costs, and GHG emissions. Our capacity currently is approximately 12,000 tons per year, but we are continuing to invest in capacity and expect it to triple within the next few years.

TT: Which are your major markets in terms of application and geographies?

BFT is focused on the single-use and durable nonwoven markets which include all types of surface cleaning wipes such as baby wipes, personal care wipes, and industrial cleaning wipes. Additionally, a strong market exists for durable nonwovens used in the textile, cleaning and building industries.
BFT operates production facilities in both Europe and the US, and we are working with nonwoven converters and consumer brands on both continents.

TT: What makes flax and hemp ideal for nonwoven applications?

Historically, bast fibre use in the nonwoven industry was relegated to low value applications that included insulation, composites, and construction material. BFT recognised the untapped potential of these fibres for use as natural alternatives to synthetic fibres in a wide variety of nonwoven applications. BFT developed advanced fibre processing technologies that transform bast fibres into consistently high-quality fibres that meet the exacting standards required by the nonwoven industry.  BFT’s fibres enable the industry to offer a compostable, all-natural, plastic free fibre that doesn’t trade performance in favour of environmental stewardship.
Bast fibres are found in the phloem tissue of the plant stem which is responsible for both strength and for transporting nutrients throughout the plant. BFT’s process keeps these bast fibres intact, leveraging their inherent strength and moisture management characteristics within the finished product. From field to finished fibre, BFT controls dozens of critical processing control points to ensure its fibres can be processed at commercial speeds on all applicable nonwoven conversion platforms. Fabrics produced from BFT’s fibres are suitable for applications ranging from surface cleaning wipes to baby wipes and even hygienic applications.

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TT: Are there any challenges? If yes, please specify.

Bast fibres have been overlooked by the industry and had a reputation for being dirty, inconsistent, and difficult to process. BFT has elevated standard hemp fibre into highly consistent technical fibres suitable for a wide variety of nonwoven applications: from surface cleaning to personal care to hygienic applications. If required, BFT can modify the characteristics of bast fibres to suit various end-market applications through the innovative application of proprietary finishes and performance enhancements.
These technical achievements result in an all-natural, plastic-free fibre that brings sustainability, processing reliability, and performance to the global nonwoven industry.

TT: What kinds of patents does BFT hold?

BFT’s fibres are intact natural fibres that are not pulped or regenerated. In many cases, these fibres are co-products from another industry such as linen textiles, CBD, or even food crops. This waste-not want-not philosophy offers a compelling foundation of sustainability along with the supply chain reliability that comes from leveraging established agricultural commodities. BFT’s deep understanding of the value chain has culminated in a robust suite of IP and know-how that positions it as a leader in the sustainable nonwoven fibre industry.
BFT currently enjoys nearly a dozen patents or patent-pending innovations that cover fibres, fabrics, products, and methods of manufacturing. This IP suite provides BFT with a compelling market position and leadership role in the expanding natural fibre space.

TT: What are some of the milestones in terms of sustainability you have achieved?

Sustainability for us isn’t just a buzzword, it’s part of our DNA. BFT was formed as a triple-bottom-line company measuring profitability, sustainability, and human rights on a level scale. From our raw material to our cleaning process, which uses green chemistry, our regional sourcing strategies that support local family farms, to fibre certifications that confirm our products’ plastic free and compostable properties, BFT holds sustainability as a guiding principle.
Our process produces consistent, quality natural fibres that can be offered as a plug and play solution to plastic and tree free fibres on conventional nonwoven manufacturing equipment.
Another milestone has been the expansion of our ‘grow local, produce local, sell local’ sourcing and manufacturing strategy through the acquisition of our Lumberton, NC facility from Georgia-Pacific. By adopting a regional supply chain approach, we can avoid unnecessary shipping of goods across the globe while tapping into the rapidly growing North American hemp industry.
BFT has committed to ethical and sustainable sourcing practices including adopting an ancient forest friendly sourcing policy in conjunction with Canopy Planet and is always exploring ways in which we can lower our environmental footprint and do well by doing good.

TT: What new innovations and technologies are you working towards?

BFT is always innovating and exploring new ways to work efficiently with a lower environmental footprint. Currently BFT is expanding its offerings to include more durable nonwoven wipes that can be laundered and reused – kitchen cloths for example. These items can be used multiple times and then, once they’ve reached the end of their useful life, can be composted.
Improving our manufacturing operations to improve efficiency, product quality, and allow for new market adoption is also a key innovation project.

TT: What new applications can be expected in the future?

While BFT is a fibre supplier and doesn’t produce fabric or wipes, we do work closely with product development teams within global consumer brands. Durable nonwovens for industrial and home cleaning, textile applications in both nonwoven and traditional spun yarn, and new and unique bast fibre raw materials are also being explored.

TT: What are your long-term and short-term goals at BFT?

When I co-founded BFT in 2016 with my partners, we set our sights on becoming the leading natural fibre solution for the global nonwoven industry. That is still our goal, and we are moving steadily towards it based on the success we are enjoying with both brands and converters. Our fibres are a fantastic alternative to synthetic and tree-pulp based fibres and run well on existing conversion equipment, bringing a new level of sustainability and performance to the nonwoven industry.
We have set aggressive sustainability and social goals at BFT. Further, reducing our GHG emissions to net-zero without traditional offsets is one of our goals, as is supporting family farms through our raw material sourcing strategy.

Published on: 20/07/2022

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of technicaltextile.net.


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