Bamboo has gained popularity for use within fashion and apparel products. Reasons for this stem from its incredible growing speed, its ability to grow out of its own roots, relatively small water demand, and lack of need for pesticides or fertilizers.
The truth becomes murkier when analyzing the reality of bamboo’s journey into end-product textiles. The bamboo plant is harvested when mature (~2 years), cut into pieces, crushed into a pulp, treated with solutions and fibers are then combed out and spun into yarns (read more here). The growing properties of bamboo have excited both textile innovators and consumers however the equation becomes more complex when analyzing the sustainability behind the chemical processes employed in ‘bamboo rayon’ to yield those soft silk-like sheets and products.
This step of the processing chain often times sees chemicals released back into the environment. The majority of bamboo production also occurs in China with skinny regulation and unclear sustainability reporting. Due to these facts, the viscose process used to produce rayon from bamboo is ranked low in sustainability metrics.
However, the ‘closed solvent spinning loop’ process employed to produce Lyocell fibers from bamboo is a more positive prospect in sustainable fiber production (up to 99% of chemicals recaptured) and is branded Monocel®. As noted in fig. 2, Monocel® is ranked more sustainable than ‘Bamboo Viscose’, due to the aforementioned differences.
In terms of pure sustainability, bamboo has much to offer. It may be about experimenting with the most efficient process until perfected. The full mosaic is more complicated than meets the eye, yet more innovation may turn bamboo into a textile of the future.
What would you do to push sustainable materials into a greater market share of fashion and textiles?
Nayak, L., Mishra, S.P. Prospect of bamboo as a renewable textile fiber, historical overview, labeling, controversies and regulation. Fash Text 3, 2 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40691-015-0054-5
Rocky, B.P., Thompson, A.J. Production and Modification of Natural Bamboo Fibers from Four Bamboo Species, and Their Prospects in Textile Manufacturing. Fibers Polym 21, 2740–2752 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12221-020-1208-7
Yamuna Devi S., Indran S., Divya D. (2021) Futuristic Prospects of Bamboo Fiber in Textile and Apparel Industries: Fabrication and Characterization. In: Jawaid M., Mavinkere Rangappa S., Siengchin S. (eds) Bamboo Fiber Composites. Composites Science and Technology. Springer, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-15-8489-3_11