That Reusable Trader Joe’s Bag? It’s Rescuing an Indian Industry. – The New York Times

“NADIA, India — When shoppers in places like America take a woven reusable bag to the store, they aren’t just saving the planet. They are reviving a storied industry thousands of miles away in India.

Jute, a coarse fiber used to make fabrics like burlap, has been cultivated for centuries in the warm and humid climate of the Ganges Delta. Some of India’s jute factories have been in operation for more than a century, and today the country is the world’s largest producer.

But in recent decades, the industry has struggled as less expensive synthetic substitutes have flooded the market. Farmers turned to other crops, cheap labor moved elsewhere and mills deteriorated from lack of investment.

Now, though, what had been jute’s weakness is its potential strength. As much of the world seeks biodegradable alternatives to synthetic materials like plastics, Indian jute is making its way around the planet, from supermarkets in the United States to fashion houses in France to wine producers in Italy.”