For years, bamboo has been touted as being one of the most environmentally-friendly fabrics on the market. Bamboo is indeed a very fast-growing, sturdy and sustainable tropical forest product, which usually does not require the use of pesticides and herbicides to thrive.
You can make pretty much any piece of furniture and kitchen products out of bamboo. But is it a good green material for reusable bags?
Bamboo textile sounds “green”, but actually it is not completely eco-friendly. And this is due to the chemical process used to transform organic bamboo into a reusable bag.
In August 2009, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission issued "Have You Been Bamboozled by Bamboo Fabrics?", a report that questioned “green” claims about bamboo fabrics of some companies.
“Rayon is a man-made fiber created from the cellulose found in plants and trees. Any plant or tree could be used as a cellulose source – including bamboo – but the fiber that is created is rayon.”
“Textiles can only be called bamboo if they are made directly from actual bamboo fiber. Textiles made from rayon (or viscose, which is the same thing) that was created using bamboo as a plant source may be labeled and advertised as “rayon (or viscose) made from bamboo.” Federal Trade Commission.
We, consumers, are misled by the wrong name. If we hear “bamboo fabric” we imagine that the whole thing is made of bamboo and as “green” as bamboo’s leaves. But if the fabric is named how it is supposed to be by law – “rayon from bamboo” – it is already eye-opening for those who wish to stay green.
Is it biodegradable?
In a recent action, the FTC busted claims of biodegradable bamboo cloth products because the claims are unqualified. The Commission charged that rayon products are not biodegradable because they will not break down in a reasonably short time after customary disposal. Most clothing and textiles are disposed of either by recycling or in a landfill, where such biodegradation does not occur.
Recyclable – YES!
Biodegradable – NO!
Is it antimicrobial?
The FTC contends that rayon does not retain any natural antimicrobial properties of the bamboo plant. The rayon manufacturing process eliminates any of these natural bamboo properties.
Bamboo fabric can be called so if only mechanical process is applied to create a fabric with actual bamboo fiber, otherwise it is rayon and nothing else, unless the process of extracting fiber from bamboo pulps is improved.