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Potential Uses of Flax Fiber, Shive and Straw

Due to the long decay period of flax straw, the traditional North American practice to eliminate the "flax straw" problem was to drop it in windrows after the combine and then burn it or chop it and work it into the soil. In the new world ideology, this is not considered to be a very "green" option.

In Europe, the Middle East and Asia, flax straw is grown more for the potential of the straw than for the seed harvest. For thousands of years, outside of North America, the fiber from flax straw has been used in the textile industry to produce linen, so the idea of burning the straw would be far from acceptable in most areas outside of North America.

At the present time, there are some technical challenges to replicating traditional long line linen production in the Prairies. With time, experience and funding these challenges can be managed and/or overcome. In the meantime it is possible to manage and process the existing oilseed flax straw in non-traditional ways to produce a variety of products.

There are many other potential uses for flax straw that add value to this by-product and are far more desirable than burning the straw.



As well as the traditional European style long line flax fiber being used to produce pure linen yarn and fabrics, shorter flax fiber (usually 5 to 15 cm long) can be used to produce coarser yarns and fabrics or that can be reprocessed to produce "cottonized flax" (i.e., fibers with the approximate diameter and length of cotton) which can then be blended with cotton to produce cooler garments.




As well as flax fiber being used in the production of linen, flax fiber can also be used in the manufacture of geotextiles used to reduce the level of dust and erosion at road, railway, construction and mine sites. Geotextiles can also be used to reduce or eliminate weed growth in horticultural applications.




Many plastic composites use fibreglass to give strength, reduce weight and/or reduce cost. There is an increasing growth of demand for flax fiber to replace fibreglass in plastic composites. Flax fibers are generally cheaper, lighter in weight and impart more flexibility than fiberglass as well as taking less energy to manufacture.




Flax fibers can be processed to produce insulation batts with similar insulating properties to the fibreglass batts commonly used to insulate walls and ceilings. The bio-decomposition of flax fiber is also a benefit when the useful life is over as compared to fibreglass which would end up in a landfill. Flax fiber batts would be treated to make them flame retardaent as well as mold and creep resistant.




Paper made from flax fiber is more expensive than paper from wood fiber due to is being processed sometimes acid-free, but it can be used to produce very long-lasting thin, durable, permeable and/or archival papers. These properties make it the traditional choice for high quality paper like that used for currency and cigarettes.

Other (fiber)


Flax fiber is also used in such applications as stuffing, wadding and blown erosion control products.




Flax shive, which is the non-fibrous by-product of extracting the flax fiber, is increasingly being used as horse, livestock and pet bedding.

Plastic Fillers


Flax shive is increasingly being used as a filler for plastic to reduce production costs. Its aspect ratio is often superior to wood based fillers and hence it oftens acts as a re-inforcing filler.




Flax shive is used as both a mulch that can be worked into the soil to lighten up heavy soil or it can be spread as ground cover to reduce weed growth and soil moisture evaporation.



Flax straw or shive could be used as a biofuel for large scale burners with automated bale feeders.  Flax straw has a per tonne heating value similar to soft coal. It can also be hammer-milled and compressed into pellets or fire logs.

Other (straw)



Flax straw bales have often been used to line drainage ditches, create wind shelters for cattle, provide duck nesting sites in sloughs, insulate around basements and, in an unrolled form, to cover golf greens. Square bales have been used in the construction of residential and commercial buildings.

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