Bamboo products: Why they’re taking over the market

Many cultures around the world have used bamboo for eons. Today there is a boom in innovative bamboo products and applications as a sustainable alternative to wood. When we at Bamboo Van Diemen became aware of this phenomenon, we researched the heck out of this amazing plant. The mind boggling findings left us with little doubt that our future path would be bordered by Bamboo. The only mystery we determined, was why it took the western world so long to discover ‘the miracle plant’ . 

Read on and discover some of the most fantastic bamboo products you probably didn’t even know existed!

What products are made from bamboo? 

This is often one of the first questions one asks when learning about this incredible plant. Bamboo products are becoming more popular because of their environmental-friendly properties.

What products can be made from the tree? Anything that is made from wood can also be made from bamboo. However, the advantage of bamboo is that it grows quickly and can be harvested every year without damaging or having to replant the plantation or forest. Bamboo has better mechanical properties than traditional wood materials.

There are currently thousands of commercial bamboo products on the market, and new uses and innovative applications are being added daily. They range from building materials to food, medicine, musical instruments, textiles, wood pulp, fencing, basketry, tools, bicycles, etc.

So the better question would be: what products cannot be made from bamboo?

Or, as an ancient Asian saying goes: 

“Man is born in a bamboo cradle and leaves in a bamboo coffin. Everything in between is possible with bamboo!”

Bamboo musical instruments

For thousands of years, bamboo has been used to make musical instruments, initially probably percussion, but later also for wind and string instruments. Its natural hollow shape makes bamboo an obvious choice for many traditional instruments, such as a wide variety of flutes. However, the excellent sound qualities of solid bamboo sheets are also used today to build modern guitars.

It is well known that every bamboo forest hides the instruments for an orchestra. The list of bamboo musical instruments is very long indeed. It includes xylophones, dulcimers, marimbas, alone, castanets, drumsticks, zithers, cut drums, bells, maracas, guitars, and ukuleles, violins, Chapman sticks, panflutes, didgeridoos, fifes, saxophones, clarinets, kazoos, whistles, trumpets, and piccolo, etc.

Bamboo fabrics and textiles

In recent years, several technologies have been developed that allow bamboo fibers to be used for a wide range of fabrics, cloths, yarns, textiles, clothing, and fashion applications, such as T-shirts, pants, underwear, socks, towels, sheets, pillowcases, blankets, mattresses, and even weaves.

Currently, two production processes are used to produce bamboo fabrics: chemical and mechanical. The advantages of processed bamboo textiles are ramie-like feel, a natural antifungal and antimicrobial properties, rapid moisture absorption and drying ability, the ability to retain warmth in cold periods and coolness in hot periods, and protection from ultraviolet rays and antistatic properties. 

Unfortunately (due to the higher cost of mechanically extracted bamboo fibers), modern bamboo garments are usually made from chemically treated bamboo, called viscose rayon.

This region is produced by dissolving cellulose in bamboo and then extruding it to form fibers. This process removes the natural characteristics of the bamboo fiber, making it identical to the region of other cellulose sources. Unless the product is made directly from bamboo fiber (mechanically processed bamboo), it cannot be called “bamboo.” 

Bamboo textiles offer many solutions to the unsustainable nature of textile engineering, as bamboo is a renewable resource that produces 50 times more fiber per acre than cotton.

However, production costs, energy, water, and chemicals still need to be addressed.  

Bamboo pulp and paper

Bamboo fibers have been used for papermaking since ancient times, but in recent years bamboo has become the primary raw material for pulp and paper production due to the scarcity of wood resources. The bamboo paper has a high tear index, similar to hardwood paper, and its brightness and optical properties remain stable. In contrast, those of wood pulp paper can deteriorate over time. Bamboo can also be processed with less energy, and bamboo can be processed with less energy and chemicals than wood, making it more environmentally friendly.

According to research, the total production capacity of bamboo, pulp reached 2.4 million tons in 2017, of which 80% is used to produce raw bamboo pulp for household paper. Examples of bamboo products are coffee filters, cups, paper towels, toilet paper, cardboard, craft paper, and bond paper.

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