Jute is a strong natural, biodegradable fiber derived from plants in the genus Corchorus and has high tensile strength and low extensibility. After cotton, it is the second most important vegetable fiber for cultivation and for various purposes, including making cloth, weaving curtains and backing for linoleum.
The company had primarily been using it to make shrouds, linings and urns. Sandra Thomson, its managing director, realized its potential as a material to make coffins early on. "It started as a dream," she said. "I have a huge passion for jute and was determined that jute was not going to die out of Dundee." David Wilkie, the company's production manager, agreed that jute constituted a viable alternative to wood. "The jute board is comprised of many layers of jute felt which are compressed and the outcome is something similar to wood. We have had a coffin assembled and it meets pretty well all the requirements of a normal wooden coffin," he explained.
While jute isn't yet a fair trade product, Thomson hopes to see that change in the future and for now is relying on jute ethically produced in factories in India.