Bamboo is grown abundantly worldwide because it is low cost and not complex. It is considered as a potential alternative to wood, plastics and other materials. The article talks about bamboo products, their eco-friendly properties, advantages, types and examples.
What is Bamboo?
Bamboo (subfamily Bambusoideae) is a tall treelike plant that is part of the grass family and has hollow woody ringed stems, known as culms. They are typically grown in tropical and subtropical regions with the highest number of species in East and Southeast Asia.
Bamboo is a naturally growing composite material, whereby its cellulose fibres are embedded in a lignin matrix. With its superior mechanical and physical properties, it is increasingly being viewed as an alternative to plastics, wood and other materials for structural applications.
There are over 1,200 species of bamboo and every part of it can be utilized, including being edible.Thus, it is a zero-waste plant.
Why is Bamboo Eco-Friendly?
Bamboo is highly desirable owing to their environmental conservation properties of being 100% biodegradable and decomposition properties. It can produce 35% more oxygen in comparison to trees of an equivalent mass and can absorb as much as 12 tonnes of carbon dioxide per hectare per year.
Other than that, it can be grown without chemical fertilisers or pesticides and little water, thanks to its pest-resistant, antifungal and antibacterial properties.
Since bamboo is very lightweight, importing bamboo leaves a smaller carbon footprint compared to heavier materials such as wood.
Bamboo based industries are growing because they can usually operate at a low cost. Bamboo can grow up to one metre a day and reaches maturity in approximately five years compared to hardwood trees which can take more than twenty years.
A fun fact: A certain species of bamboo has been recorded in the Guinness World Records as the fastest growing plant.
Bamboo can regrow naturally from its own root system after being harvested. This means it does not have to be replanted, no soil erosion and excess tilling.
In comparison to hardwood, bamboo plants do not need to be uprooted and can be harvested by hand. Land erosion is less likely to happen because the soil around the bamboo plant is not destabilized during harvesting.
Furthermore, its high adaptability to most soil conditions and climates make it useful in restoring degraded and damaged lands.
Benefits of Bamboo Products
According to Business Insider, bamboo has a high tensile strength of 28,000 pounds per square inch and that easily surpasses steel at only 23,000 pounds per square inch. Thus, bamboo is durable and widely used as building materials, be it roads, bridges, buildings, furnitures or flooring.
Other than that, one of the common issues of traditional hardwoods is that they can be dented, which is not the case here, as bamboo that has woven stranding if the bamboo is used in bamboo flooring.
The ability of bamboo to withstand high pressure is owing to the absence of rays or knots in it as compared to wood. Bamboo also has high flexibility that ensures that it will not break when bent thanks to its dense fibre.
It is pest-resistant because its high silica content makes it difficult for pests such as termites to digest its material.
Bamboo takes a classy look by having asymmetrical design pattern. Its smooth sleek texture makes it pleasing to touch.
Biodegradable and Compostable
Bamboo is 100% biodegradable and compostable in approximately 2 to 6 months as compared to plastic that takes many years to decompose. The table below shows the lifecycle of plastics that determines the years they take to degrade:
In summary, bamboo products are better alternatives compared to plastic products in terms of the time taken to degrade or compost.
By switching from plastic to bamboo products or other biodegradable material, it helps to reduce the alarming issue of plastic pollution.
Types of Bamboo Products
Reusable Bamboo Products
Reusable bamboo products are made of whole plants.
- The bamboo plant is sent for grinding into fine powder once the bamboo plant is matured and ready to be harvested.
- Manufacturers can mold the powder into any bamboo product or shape using a patented process. As a result, the biodegradable and durable bamboo product can be reused many times.
Disposable Bamboo Products
When the outer layer of the bamboo’s stem, called sheath, falls off at maturity, they can be used for the production of disposable bamboo products.
- Once the sheath falls off, it is collected, cleaned, boiled and lastly laminated.
- After lamination, it is pressed down into the bamboo tableware shape.
These disposable bamboo products can often be reused a few times and are dishwasher safe.
Are Bamboo Products Bad for Pandas?
There are 42 species of bamboo that pandas consume, such as the arrow bamboo and root bamboo which grow at distinct elevations that sprout new leaves and shoot at different times of the year.
Nonetheless, the species of bamboo that serve as pandas’ food source or habitat is not the same as the larger, woody, industrial species which are used for furniture or bamboo flooring.
Therefore, the food resource or habitat of pandas are not affected by the purchase of bamboo products.
Top Bamboo Products for Your Home
Bamboo flooring looks elegant and it is easy to match with other furniture and home decor due to its natural look. Bamboo planks should be the choice of material for flooring as they are solid and three times stronger than oak.
Some of the other advantages over wooden floors are anti-pests, insulation qualities, smoothness, flexibility, stability, high resistance, and brightness.
Bamboo is a desirable material for the production of cutleries due to its low density. Thus, it is easier to carry around for students and working adults as it is rather light.
Bamboo Chopping Board
Bamboo chopping boards are strong and do not breed bacteria easily, thanks to its antimicrobial properties. Besides that, bamboo is easy on knife blades and can be used as a serving platter for meat, bread, cheese or others.
Bamboo fabric is an extremely durable and resilient fibre yet soft to touch. In comparison to polyester and cotton, bamboo in fabric is more absorbent.
Bamboo also has other properties in fabric, which are hypoallergenic, thermo-regulating and breathable, antibacterial, antimicrobial, biodegradable and UV protective.
However, bamboo textiles do not receive certification from the Global Organic Textile Standards, including those produced using organically grown bamboo.
Its sustainability is therefore largely dependent on where the bamboo comes from and how the textiles are being produced – either mechanically or chemically. Obviously, the former method is more eco-friendly than the latter.
Bamboo fabric that is produced mechanically is called bamboo linen and it is the most eco-friendly of all bamboo fabrics. The woody part of the bamboo is crushed and natural enzymes are used to break the walls of bamboo into a mushy mass to enable the natural fibre to be mechanically combed out and spun into yarn.
During chemical treatment, the bamboo is processed into fibre by going through purification, bleaching, soaking and lastly being treated with chemicals. Types of bamboo fabrics that are produced chemically include:
- Bamboo Viscose: Made from Bamboo Viscose, chemically processed, less eco-friendly.
- Bamboo Rayon: Made from Bamboo Cellulose, chemically processed, less eco-friendly.
- Bamboo Lyocell: Made from Bamboo Pulp, lesser chemical and water used, most eco-friendly.
Bamboo Toilet Paper
Bamboo toilet paper is stronger, cooler to touch and softer than those made from hardwood. Bamboo paper is antibacterial, hypoallergenic, antifungal and odour resistant. These properties make it ideal for people who have sensitive skin or allergies.
The biodegradable properties of bamboo toilet paper allow it to break down and decompose in water quickly when flushed down the toilet thus will not block the sewer system.
Bottles made from bamboo are organic, leak proof, and Bisphenol A (BPA) free.
Plastics are non-biodegradable thus failure to dispose of them correctly will impact the environment and aquatic wildlife.
When the incorrectly disposed plastic waste accumulates in the wildlife habitats, especially the ocean, aquatic wildlife will be in danger of ingesting the plastics or exposed to the toxins from them.
Over eight millions tonnes of plastics finds its way into the world’s ocean every year and millions of wildlife die each year from consumption or entrapment of plastic.
Single-use plastic straws are the most commonly used in daily lives. Being lightweight, straws are more likely to end up in the waterway due to littering.
By replacing the plastic straws with bamboo straws, we can make a difference by reducing plastic pollution. Bamboo straws are 100% biodegradable, zero-waste, reusable, and food safe.
International brands such as McDonald’s and Nando’s have joined the initiative to reduce plastic use by utilizing paper straws in its restaurant chains.
Bamboo toothbrushes are a great alternative to plastic ones because they are 100% biodegradable while plastic toothbrushes are thrown away after some time.
It is important to note that toothbrushes that are made from nylon and polypropylene plastic can take up to 500 years or longer to decompose.
Bamboo Wooden Floor Mat
Bamboo wooden floor mats are stronger than rubber or plastic and lighter than teak wood. They have a long lifespan, will not turn mouldy due to the antimicrobial and antibacterial properties, easy to clean, and will not sag, stain or bend.
Most of the time, there are no additional additives or chemicals used throughout the process of making packaging from bamboo fibres.
Owing to the sustainability of bamboo as a raw ingredient, bamboo packaging is classified as more sustainable than other packaging materials.
To summarise, bamboo products are eco-friendly in comparison to other hardwood products due to the sustainability, durability and restorative nature of the bamboo plants. Bamboo can be made into reusable and disposable bamboo products that provide durability and are aesthetically pleasing.