Flax is one of the oldest cultivated plants.The seeds can be pressed to produce oil for use in painting and for producing linoleum. Itsfibres can be woven into valuabletextiles, pressed into strips for sealing joints around doors and windows, braided into light insulation matting or compressed into building boards.
Flax fibres are twice as strong as polyester fibres; and about 50-75% stronger than cotton (Andersson, 1986). Flax is even stronger when wet. It is naturally resistant to most insects. It is relatively fireproof and can be used as insulation in fire doors. If itdoes ignite, it smoulders and does not emit toxic fumes.
Plants are renewable resources that can be cultivated and harvested on a sustainable basis. Given sensible methods of cultivation they are a constant source of raw materials.
About 27% of the total land mass is covered by forest. In addition, about13% is covered by sparse forest (Kucera etal., 1999). In Europe, about 36% of the land is forest - though only 1% of this is old growth forest (Muilerman etal., 2001).
The importance of trees and plants for the global climate is now realized. They break down carbon dioxide, the dominant greenhouse gas, into oxygen and carbon that is stored in the soil and in vegetation. Seen from this perspective it is amazing that rainforests are still being threatened not only by pollution but also by clearing for development. This occurs also in large parts of Australia, Russia and the USA, where timber is felled without replanting.
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