Bamboo as a crop or a plant is well established in some countries, and to a lesser extent in others.
If you’re not familiar with it, we’ve put together a quick guide about what Bamboo is, and some information about growing Bamboo, and the different Bamboo uses/products.
Summary – What Is Bamboo & How Is It Used
- Bamboo is a type of grass, and is one of the fastest growing plants in the world
- It can be used in thousands of products across a range of industries
- Both the bamboo shoots and the cane can be used from the plant, as well as the leaves in some applications too
- The Southeast Asia monsoon zone is home to 90% of the total bamboo forest area (countries like China, India and Japan are some of the best for bamboo production)
- There’s several different ways to process bamboo – each of which might be more sustainable or eco friendly than the other in different ways
- Bamboo fibres used in textiles can be made of bamboo rayon which heavily uses chemicals in the processing stage – this isn’t the most eco friendly option
- More eco friendly ways to process bamboo fibres might be either mechanical processing, or chemical processing using a closed loop system that captures chemicals and dyes
- Using lyocell with bamboo can also be a more eco friendly option
- Bamboo fibre traits can lead to it having different softness, durability, absorbency and other features compared to other fibres
What Is Bamboo
- Bamboo is an evergreen perennial flowering plant in the subfamily of the grass family.
What Is Bamboo Used For – Products
- Bamboo is commonly used for building materials, as a food source, and as a versatile raw product.
- Bamboo has a higher specific compressive strength than wood, brick or concrete, and a specific tensile strength that rivals steel.
- Bamboo can be used in 1000’s of products, including but not limited to clothing/textiles, tissue/paper, furniture, cars, floorboards, energy, food and beverage and more.
- Bamboo shoots that grow off the side of the stem can be picked for food, and the bamboo cane is usually cut out after 3 to 5 years and used for things like building materials, or further broken down for use of the fibres inside for example.
Bamboo Plant Traits
- Bamboos include some of the fastest-growing plants in the world, due to a unique rhizome-dependent system.
- Certain species of bamboo can grow 91 cm (36 in) within a 24-hour period, at a rate of almost 4 cm (1.6 in) an hour (a growth around 1 mm every 90 seconds, or 1 inch every 40 minutes).
Countries That Grow/Produce The Most Bamboo
- The main bamboo producing countries are China, India, Japan, Myanmar, Thailand, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines.
- Southeast Asia monsoon zone (southeastern China, southwestern China, Indochina and the Indian subcontinent) is the world’s bamboo distribution center, the region has concentrated 80 percent of the world’s bamboo species, 90% of the total bamboo forest area.
- China, India and Japan are the best countries for bamboo production and bamboo resource development.
- The world’s bamboo forest area is about 22 million hm2.
- The geographical distribution of the world’s bamboo can be divided into 3 main areas – namely the Asia bamboo region, the Americas and Africa bamboo zone area.
- The main bamboo producing countries are China, India, Myanmar, Thailand, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Vietnam, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea, Sri Lanka.
How Is Bamboo Grown & Harvested?
You can read more about how bamboo flowers and is grown at madehow.com
But, some farms and countries may harvest Bamboo in a slightly different way depending on technology, growing conditions, farming methods and so on.
How Is Bamboo Processed?
You can read more about how bamboo is processed at madehow.com
Depending on the product being made and processing facility, bamboo may be processed differently in different supply chains
Bamboo Used In Textiles – Growing, Processing, & Traits
There’s several ways bamboo fibres can be processed:
- Chemical processing
- Mechanical processing
- Chemical processing with a closed loop system that captures chemicals, dyes, and so on
bambootextiles.com.au provides a good summary of the chemical bamboo fibre production and processing process:
- Bamboo textile fibre is made from bamboo timber which has matured in the forest for at least 4 years.
- … In summer, when new shoots reach their full height, they are marked with a year code which makes sure they are harvested at the right maturity.
- When harvested they are taken to mills where they are crushed and submersed in a strong solution of sodium hydroxide which dissolves the bamboo cellulose. With the addition of carbon disulfide it renders the mix ready to regenerate fibres which are then drawn off, washed and bleached to a bright white colour and dried.
- The resultant fluff is very long in staple and visibly finer than other fibres.
- Then they are spun into yarn, like any other textile fibre.
- The longer staple and higher tensile strength is what makes a tough, soft yarn – which is not as susceptible to wearing and fraying as many other yarns. This is what gives bamboo fabrics excellent durability. The hollowness of the fibre contributes to its very high level of absorbency. But it also takes longer to dry on a clothesline. The hollowness of the fibre also enables it to hold dyes and pigments more readily and permanently, thus making it much more colourfast.
- The two main chemicals used in the process are sodium hydroxide and carbon disulfide. It was only discovered that carbon disulfide was a nerve poison after many years of exposure at high concentrations by factory workers in Italy in the 1930s and 40s. With adequate ventilation it is not a problem these days and it breaks down when in contact with the natural elements. Neither carbon nor sulfur are poisonous elements.
- Sodium hydroxide is also known as caustic soda, and it is true that it is strongly alkaline and will react with many substances. However, it is not toxic at all and is used extensively in cooking. Used in quite high concentrations it is what gives traditional pretzels their distinctive flavour.
- Since the fibers of bamboo are very short (less than 3 mm (0.12 in)), they are not usually transformed into yarn by a natural process.
- The usual process by which textiles labeled as being made of bamboo are produced uses only rayon made from the fibers with heavy employment of chemicals.
- To accomplish this, the fibers are broken down with chemicals and extruded through mechanical spinnerets; the chemicals include lye, carbon disulfide, and strong acids.
- Retailers have sold both end products as “bamboo fabric” to cash in on bamboo’s current eco friendly cachet; however, the Canadian Competition Bureau and the US Federal Trade Commission, as of mid-2009, are cracking down on the practice of labeling bamboo rayon as natural bamboo fabric.
- Under the guidelines of both agencies, these products must be labeled as rayon with the optional qualifier “from bamboo”.
Despite companies using chemicals to break down bamboo fibre at the processing stage, some companies are able to do this in a more eco friendly way.
- Bamboo can use closed loop processes that capture chemicals and dyes – but make sure that bamboo is certified to guarantee the process used
– fashion-incubator.com, and 1millionwomen.com.au
- Lyocell with bamboo can be better environmentally as well
What Is Rayon?
Rayon from bamboo comes from the bamboo fibres when they are broken down using chemicals.
- In a nutshell, rayon is a fabric made from purified cellulose fibres, which are typically created from wood pulp.
- Though rayon is derived from natural materials, it requires certain chemicals, so it’s considered to be a semi-synthetic fabric.
- One of the most common types of rayon is viscose rayon, which has a lot in common with cotton. It’s breathable, moisture-absorbent, and a popular choice for casual and athletic wear. It also shows up in dresses, blouses, and outerwear. Secondary types of rayon include modal rayon (typically made from beech trees) and lyocell (seen in everything from denim to dress shirts).
Value Of The Bamboo Industry/Market
- Bamboo has a global economy valued at 60 billion a year in 2016
- Global market for bamboo is expected to be valued at US $3.6 Bn by the end of 2017
- APAC [Asia Pacific] is expected to account for more than 2/3rdshare of the global bamboos market by the end of 2017. APAC is projected to create a total incremental $ opportunity of close to US$ 5000 Mn between 2017 and 2027 and is projected to be the most attractive region in the global bamboos market over the forecast period.
Some More Bamboo Stats & Facts
You can read some interesting stats and facts about bamboo at