Bamboo fabric. To be or Taboo?

There have been many a mixed reports about the true sustainable value of bamboo fabric until now, so it is with eagerness today that I aim to try and clarify the finer details of this mystery.

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Bamboo holds natural anti-bacterial properties. The plant is also very resilient, easy to grow, and requires little or, in most cases, no use of pesticides and fertilisers. As a fabric it is said to have very good wicking qualities, has the fabrics ability to draw moisture away from the body.

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However to create Bamboo fabric, a chemical process has to turn this plants cellulosic fibers into fabric. This process is very similar to Rayon/Viscose production, which has been in production since the mid 1800’s.  Bamboo leaves and the soft, inner pith from the hard bamboo trunk are extracted using a steaming process and then mechanically crushed.

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Rayon/Viscose (bamboo/non-bamboo wood fibre – based) is a manufactured regenerated cellulose fibre,
most commonly made from wood that is chemically treated to produce a wood pulp, often bamboo makes up the wood used, and is promoted as having environmental advantages over wood-pulp viscose rayon.  The pulp is then extracted through spinnerets (think of a big shower head spraying out long strands of fibres) then solidified in a sulphuric acid bath. These strands are then spun into fibres that will eventually be woven into rayon/viscose fabric.

 
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www.bamboo-china.comBamboo-Pulp-Fabric-Yarn

Note, though, the (non bamboo) viscose rayon is not called ‘wood fabric’ even though it is made from wood, so, why should call rayon/viscose made from bamboo wood pulp, Bamboo fabric. The chemical and physical restructuring of wood and bamboo to make the textile fibres is so involved that by the time all that processing is finished, the end product is nowhere near its original plant form!

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There are however some companies which produce bamboo fiber via what’s called an advanced “closed loop” solvent spinning process, which has minimal impact on the environment and an economical use of energy and water. The solvent used is continually recycled during the production process. So, production plant emissions into the air from smokestacks and from waste water are significantly lower in comparison to many other man-made fibre operations. The fibre will usually degrade completely in just eight days in waste treatment plants.
So where does this lead us?

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We now know that bamboo grows easily, it requires no fertilisers, pesticides or chemicals, being that it is one of the fastest growing plants on the planet. Bamboo crops may even be grown on marginal land unsuitable for forestry.     It has no harmful residues left on it from the unsustainable, chemically damaging cultivation that conventional cotton requires. However the production process of bamboo into fibre which eventually make the fabrics is largely chemical.

When you compare bamboo to conventional cotton, that, which uses approximately 25% of the world’s insecticides; (seven out of ten of these are among the most toxic chemicals on earth), leaves lands barren & heavily pollutes water systems… Which of the options do you choose?
Which is more sustainable?
Well, to answer that we would have to get very technical and still, there is no right or wrong answer, subjectivity rules here.

So instead of spending precious time and energy trying to solve this equation, I continue to rather put my energy & time into investigating, researching, continually learning, growing, partnering & supporting, and hence, offering you the Organic Alternative.

From seed to fibre, through to spinning and weaving (& now even in the dying process, with the array of naturally dyed fabric we have available) you can rest assured that every step is ecologically sound and with the best interest of the environment and all its dwellers (that’s us included) at heart!

info & imagery: https://etsishats.com  |  http://inchinahil.travellerspoint.com/ | http://www.enn.com/ | http://www.cbc.ca/