With the growing demand for more environmentally friendly products, new kinds of regenerated fibres, which are an alternative to conventional materials such as plastic, have gained importance in textile manufacturing. From homewares to fabrics, bamboo has come under the spotlight. Fast-growing, inexpensive, with outstanding material qualities, and a natural resource in many countries, bamboo offers huge potential for a new generation of building materials and textiles.
HOW IS BAMBOO FIBRE PRODUCED?
Despite its tree-like appearance, bamboo is part of the grass family and is considered the fastest growing plant on Earth. It grows in various continents of the world, with the Asia-Pacific region being the largest.
Generally, bamboo fibres are extracted mechanically or chemically or from a combination of both. Bamboo culms are crushed, and then advanced technology is used to separate the cellulose/fibrous material from the woody part of the bamboo. The individual fibres are then combed out.
Bamboo is extremely fast-growing – 15 times faster than traditional lumber. Bamboo can be re-harvested sustainably every 3-5 years whereas, most trees take 10-20 years.
Bamboo is naturally self-sustaining with an extensive root system that sends up new shoots each year. This reduces the need for cultivation practices which is great for soil health and prevents soil erosion. Bamboo also has relatively low water requirements, so it rarely needs to be irrigated. This makes bamboo an incredible renewable and sustainable resource.
PESTS AND FERTILISERS
Bamboo possesses a unique anti-microbial agent termed “bamboo kun”, which gives bamboo a natural resistance to pest and pathogen infestations. Therefore, bamboo thrives naturally without the use of pesticides, fertilisers, or chemicals.
STRENGTH AND DURABILITY
Bamboo has been used extensively in the construction industry. This is because bamboo is lightweight and extremely strong, even stronger than steel. The tensile strength of steel is 23,000 PSI, while the tensile strength of bamboo is 28,000 PSI! The incredible strength of bamboo comes from the numerous bamboo fibres aligned longitudinally along its length.
Bamboo’s incredible growth rate is more than show-stopping, but it also translates to some serious carbon sequestration benefits. Research has demonstrated that bamboo can absorb as much as 12 tons of carbon dioxide per hectare per year. That’s HUGE! Not only that, two-thirds of the carbon is stored in the soil in the root systems, so it isn’t dug up when the bamboo is harvested.
Habitat destruction is one of the single greatest threats facing wildlife and is the leading cause of extinction. By switching from timber to sustainable materials such as bamboo, logging practices can be reduced. Bamboo grows very densely, which enables a lot of it to be grown in a comparatively small area, easing pressure on land use.
The promotion of bamboo-based products has also generated new avenues for employment and economic development.
BAMBOO VS PLASTIC
Most of us are now aware that a sustainable future lies with the present industrial development towards the use of more environmentally conscious products. The widespread production of single-use plastic has made it a popular choice in almost all our human-made products. Whilst its durability was once considered a highly beneficial property, its inability to decompose has consequently resulted in a worldwide environmental issue with extreme welfare and conservation impacts on our wildlife, as well as humans.
As a natural cellulose fibre, bamboo is biodegradable in soil by microorganisms and sunshine. Undoubtedly, bamboo ticks the box as a sustainable and environmentally friendly product in comparison to plastic.
So, bamboo is making its mark as an eco-crop and is definitely one to keep an eye out for. We might just be seeing more of our everyday items being made from bamboo in the near future.