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Why we don't use Bamboo

3rd Jul 2024

Why we don't use Bamboo

Raw Bamboo is an exceptionally sustainable material. It needs minimal water, few pesticides, and significantly less manual labour to cultivate. Bamboo plants grow rapidly, sometimes up to a meter per day, and can be harvested without replanting, making them an environmentally friendly and renewable resource.

Unfortunately, it is the manufacturing process where the major drawbacks of bamboo arise.

The soft bamboo fabric that we wear is called bamboo rayon, created through a series of intensive chemical processes.

To transform raw bamboo into a soft, wearable fabric, the bamboo is first broken down into a pulp using harsh chemicals like sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) and carbon disulfide. These chemicals dissolve the bamboo cellulose, turning it into a viscous solution that can be extruded into fibres. This process, known as the viscose process, is efficient and produces a highly desirable, silky-soft fabric.

However, it comes at a significant environmental and health cost.

The use of sodium hydroxide and carbon disulfide can have serious environmental repercussions. If not properly managed, these chemicals can contaminate water sources, harm wildlife, and pose risks to factory workers. Carbon disulfide, in particular, is a potent neurotoxin that can affect workers' health if proper safety measures are not in place. Moreover, the production process is energy-intensive and can result in substantial emissions of greenhouse gases, further contributing to environmental degradation.

Additionally, while some manufacturers have adopted closed-loop systems that recycle and manage these chemicals more responsibly, this practice is not yet widespread. As a result, many bamboo rayon products on the market may still be linked to unsustainable and harmful manufacturing practices.

While raw bamboo as a material holds significant promise for sustainable agriculture, the chemical-heavy process required to turn it into bamboo rayon fabric undermines many of these benefits. Consumers looking for eco-friendly fabrics should be aware of these drawbacks and consider seeking out products that are produced using more sustainable methods, like organic cotton or merino.

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