Bamboo plays an important role across the globe as a versatile resource. Continents such as Asia, Africa, and South America all have a heavy reliance on bamboo for housing and farming tools. It’s estimated that over 1 billion homes across the globe are made of bamboo.
Some of its key qualities include its speed of growth and its natural ability to be anti-microbial. Bamboo plantations can also conserve soil and water and improve local climates.
So why don’t we see bamboo in more commercial settings?
What has stopped bamboo from entering commercial markets on a large scale?
In the early 1900s, the world’s first fully synthetic material was invented, “meaning it contained no molecules found in nature“. You might know this material today as plastic. The events of World War I and World War II saw an explosion in plastic production. The speed of innovation relating to the war efforts spilled over to consumers and in markets after markets, product after product, plastic took the place of other materials. Whether it was replacing paper and glass in packaging or wood in furniture, humanity was hooked.
The invention of plastic created a somewhat utopian vision of the future – a place where we had access to limitless supplies of cheap, effective materials. But the bubble is about to burst.
The plastic problem
With more resources and science at the tip of our fingers than ever, we’re starting to realize the full impact plastic and its production is having on our planet. One of the more unifying issues we face is the pollution of our oceans.
With a truckload of plastic entering the oceans every single minute, it’s hardly surprising that it’s having a catastrophic effect on marine life. Sea birds, dolphins, and turtles can all become entangled in larger pieces whilst some mistake the plastic for food. A lesser understood material, microplastic, causes a whole host of other issues.
Shed from larger pieces of plastics, micro-plastics have such a high prevalence in our waters that it’s estimated there could be as much as 8.3 million pieces per cubic meter of water. This makes it extremely easy for them to enter the food chain where they carry harmful toxins. Microplastics have even been found in human feces.
A lesser talked about subject when it comes to plastic is the sheer energy it takes to create. A shocking 8% of the world’s oil production is specifically used for the creation of plastics. Natural oils produce greenhouse gases when burned and contribute massively to human-caused climate change.
So what’s the alternative?
Bamboo has the starring role when it comes to a material cheap enough and versatile enough to replace plastic in consumer products. With companies like goBambu and others now offering plastic-swaps such as bamboo toothbrushes, bamboo cotton buds, and reusable bamboo coffee cups, consumers across the globe already have access to viable alternatives.
But it doesn’t end there. Bamboo can be used for everyday products such as soap dishes, cutlery, chopping boards and even in soap!
The best part? Bamboo is sustainable and completely biodegrades after it has served its purpose. Unlike the plastic toothbrush which will probably outlive your great, great, great, great, great, great-grandchild.