A process is described for using tropical fibers to recover spilled oil, gasoline, kerosene, hydrocarbons, pentachlorophenol, creosote or other hazardous liquids from land or water. The sorbent fiber material is produced from agricultural byproducts from cultivation of banana, plantain, cavendish plant, pineapple, coconut, palm, or other tropical fruit bearing plants. The sorbent fibers are produced by separating the raw plant materials; washing the separated fibers in a solution of 1% alum; pressing the fibers to extract liquids and natural juices; further separating the fibers by beating or agitating; and drying the fibers. The sorbent fibers have a water and natural liquid content of less than 10% by weight and may be applied to the surface or periphery of an oil or chemical spill, whereupon they will sorb the oil or chemical. Once the oil or chemical is sorbed the fibers may be collected and the oil or chemical may be partially recovered by compressing the fibers. The fibers may be disposed of by landfilling or may be thermally treated. When thermally treated in a boiler or furnace, the liquid laden fibers may also be a valuable source of fuel.