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Sustainability comes natural to the erosion and sediment control industry

ECTC News | April 1, 2023 | By:

Sustainable materials are the central part of the erosion control industry and the Erosion Control Technology Council (ECTC). ECTC is a leading industry organization home to top manufacturers of erosion and sediment control products, component suppliers, material distributors and test laboratories. ECTC members are dedicated to advancing the knowledge, experience and expertise of erosion and sediment control. The nonprofit organization’s mission is to develop performance standards, uniform testing procedures and guidance on the application and installation of hydraulic erosion control products (HECPs), rolled erosion control products (RECPs) and sediment retention fiber rolls (SRFRs). ECTC recently expanded its reach to other technologies as well, and it promotes the use of erosion and sediment control products through industry leadership and education in the hope of making a substantial contribution to the science of erosion control and environmental preservation.

Wood, coconut, hemp, straw, jute, cotton and other natural, sustainable fibers are the core of several rolled Erosion Control Blankets (ECBs), which are RECPs with degradable components, Hydraulic Erision Control Products (HECPs), Sediment Retention Fiber Rolls (SRFRs), and erosion control accessories.

Wooden pegs are used to anchor ECBs in environmentally sensitive areas, and wooden stakes are commonly used to anchor SRFRs. Wood in HECPs may be from reused or recycled resources such as wooden pallets. Wood fibers used within HECPs also may be made from virgin wood sources. The first ECB invented in the 1960s was made with engineered aspen excelsior fibers as its matrix. These same time-proven sustainable fibers are still used in several performance-based erosion and sediment control products. 

Aspen is the ideal species for excelsior, or shaved wood fibers, because it is one of the softest hardwoods with no pitch or resin. The unique properties of aspen species allow for the precise, engineered cut of many different excelsior fibers specifications, including cuts designed and engineered specifically for erosion and sediment control applications. Aspen is self-propagating, by sending new sprouts from its root system after it has been harvested or blown over, which eliminates the need to reseed it. The natural sustainability of aspen is another example of amazing work by Mother Nature.  

Fibers from the husks of coconuts are another sustainable fiber option for use within HECPs, RECPs and SRFRs. Exploration of hemp’s use in the erosion control industry has been in process for years and currently is more active than ever. It is not yet known exactly how and where hemp will fit into our industry, but we continue to learn more about its capabilities and limitations each day. Straw is a common agricultural by-product, so it is readily available and relatively inexpensive. Straw fibers have been used in the erosion control industry since its inception, but their longevity is typically less than other common fibers used in the industry. Today straw fibers continue to be an important part of the basic end of erosion control applications. Use of sustainable straw fibers are also commonly used in HECPs, ECBs and biocomposite TRMs (those TRMs that contain both synthetic and degradable components). Cost-effective straw ECBs are suitable for less severe applications. Loosely woven wildlife-friendly ECB netting from jute, cotton and other natural materials is another common sustainable option available in the industry.    

HECPs commonly contain tracer dyes to provide a visual aid in applications.  Historically, green dyes containing malachite green had been used because of their low cost. However, decades of research have quantified malachite green’s toxicity. Thus, sustainable tracer dyes containing environmentally friendly ingredients are now available to replace toxic malachite green and they are being used by some HECP manufacturers. In addition, plastic packaging waste from HECPs bags can be replaced by sustainable, biodegradable paper bags that are currently available.  

TRMs are rolled erosion control products that contain synthetic components. Based on the synthetic part, many might not think TRMs could be sustainable; however, that is far from the case. There are TRMs available on the market for some of the most challenging erosion control and revegetation applications that are made from postconsumer recycled goods. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles are diverted from landfills when they are used to make fibers to create the matrix of TRMs. In fact, 358,628 plastic bottles are diverted from landfills for every pound of TRM fibers made from the recycled content.  

ECTC members are committed to providing sustainable solutions. Please contact Jon Curry, ECTC executive director, to learn more about our members, tools, services and sustainable solutions provided by our group. In addition, there is a complete toolbox of specifications, CAD files, installation videos, fact sheets, etc. online at the all-new website.

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