Every year, we produce over 300 million tons of plastic. Only 10-13% of it gets recycled. The rest ends up in the landfills and the ocean. It is estimated that if we do not do anything about this, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.
It is time to choose something more sustainable than plastic. But what material should it be?
What we can use instead is bamboo.
Bamboo is a tree-like grass. It has over 1,200 species that grow naturally all over Asia. It is widely known as a super plant for its farming efficiency, environmental benefits, and its many uses.
But what exactly makes bamboo eco-friendly?
One bamboo species is officially the fastest growing plant on earth! It can grow 3 ft in just 24 hours. Because of this, it can be harvested in just 3-5 years, which means that it can keep up with the consumer demand.
Bamboo is a low-maintenance crop. It needs no pesticides and fertilisers to grow and thrive. It also consumes less water which may be due to its high storage capacity. This keeps the soil safe from harmful chemicals and the water available for other important activities.
Because of its rapid growth rate, bamboo is thought to be an excellent carbon sink. A hectare of living bamboo can store between 100 to 400 tonnes of carbon. Studies estimate that it can absorb 12 tonnes of carbon per hectare per year. That’s enough to neutralise the carbon production of three people in a year.
It also releases 35% more oxygen than trees, a gas that is needed in many metabolic processes of humans, animals, plants, and microbes.
Bamboos grow a robust and extensive root system that reduces soil erosion, especially in sloping areas. Their roots help keep the nutrients and minerals within the soil and improve its quality.
When harvesting bamboo, you only need to cut the wooden poles. There is no need for replanting! The remaining root system will grow another set of shoots so that in a few years, you can harvest again.
Bamboo may seem weak but would you believe that bamboo poles can be an alternative to steel? Its tensile strength, the ability to resist breaking and splitting under tension, is 28,000 psi versus steel’s 23,000 psi. All this is thanks to its compact molecular structure.
Bamboo is a versatile material. It can be used in many ways such as building material, paper, cloth, medicine, and even food. The young bamboo shoot can sustainability credentials have also made it a new favorite material for making eco-friendly products such as toothbrushes, chopping boards, straws,cutlery and drinking flasks.
Natural bamboo products are fully biodegradable and compostable. This is another reason why bamboo is an eco-friendly alternative to plastic. Decomposition varies depending on its size and the composting conditions. A bamboo toothbrush handle, for example, can take 6 months to 3 years to decompose. That’s way better than the 1,000 years it takes for plastic to degrade!
In countries where bamboo grows abundantly, it is also considered an icon for its good qualities. Vietnam, for example, considers bamboo a cultural symbol for the many qualities it shares with the Vietnamese people’s spirit. Its strong, straight, and tall pole symbolises resilience, indomitability, and bravery. The clusters of bamboo also represent the unity and loyalty of the Vietnamese people to their country.
Small villages in Vietnam engage in bamboo crafting, the art of making bamboo goods traditionally and by hand. Bamboo crafting has been around for over a thousand years and is passed on from generation to generation. About 700 small villages in Vietnam engage in this trade, becoming a major source of income and livelihood among the people.
Isn’t that an excellent example of sustainability? An environmentally sound material and production technique is improving the local economy and strengthening the local community and identity.
Bamboo is a better and more eco-friendly alternative to plastic. Its ability to grow rapidly without inputs, absorb carbon, durability, and biodegradability makes it the obvious and better choice.
So choose bamboo.