Factsheet: Bamboo

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We all know bamboo as the food for pandas but how about as a food packaging and tableware material? Let’s take a look at the FAQs around bamboo.

What is bamboo?

Bamboo is the fastest growing plant in the world, with some bamboo growing thirty-six inches in a single day. Because it grows so fast it means bamboo can be easier to renew than other substances, such as the wood from and is therefore considered a sustainable material.

Why is bamboo a good food packaging and tableware material?

Bamboo products like tableware are made from the stems of the plant, and because they’re strong, durable and resistant to heat, they make great products for use in foodservice applications.

They’re also resistant to oil, moisture, freezing, and can be certified for food contact. Moreover, they can be used in ovens and microwaves up to 200℃.

What is the best end-of-life for bamboo?

The ideal end-of-life for bamboo products and packaging is industrial composting (alongside other organic waste). Although, the durable nature of bamboo makes it ideal for reuse.

If composting infrastructure is not available, then the products should be placed in the general waste bin rather than allowing these items to become litter in the environment.

Does bamboo decompose in the environment?

Bamboo products are not really designed to break down in the environment by themselves.

They are compostable, but this means they need to be sent to a special industrial composting facility. They are unlikely to break down easily in home compost.

In a composting facility, bamboo can take less than 180 days  to break down fully in these specialised conditions, and it can take as little as 45 days.

Is bamboo safe?

As long as it’s 100% bamboo, then yes, it’s safe.

However, in recent years there have been an increasing number of products placed on the market that are manufactured primarily from plastic, to which bamboo or other ‘natural’ substances are then added.

A common example is found in some kitchenware, such as reusable plates, bowls and coffee beakers. These often look similar to melamine kitchenware (although less shiny). They are actually made of melamine plastic but just include ground bamboo or other constituents like corn as an additive, functioning as a filler. A recent risk assessment by the German Federal Institute of Risk Assessment (BfR) and European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) confirmed specific migration issues and the use of questionable additives in cases like this.

Bamboo cutlery
Bamboo can be used to make reusable cutlery

Is using bamboo environmentally responsible?

Bamboo is extremely renewable because of how quickly it grows.

It also doesn’t require pesticides and so doesn’t degrade soil.

However, just like any other material, farming bamboo has an impact on the planet. It’s important these are audited and monitored to ensure responsible practices are kept up and to ensure the growing of bamboo does not drive deforestation and destruction of natural habitats. Bamboo can also sometimes act as an invasive species because of how quickly it grows , and this should also be monitored by producers.

More questions?

If you have any questions about bagasse products or other sustainable materials, please get in touch with us, we’d be happy to hear from you. 

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Francisco Morcillo

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