Bamboo: durable or not?

Bamboo is often praised for being one of the most durable production materials of current days. But is it really that durable? As we love using bamboo in our products, we have been doing some research and we’re ready to share the answers with you.

The advantages of bamboo

There are two types of large bamboo plants that are most popular these days and most often used for production. These are Guadua and Moso. Guadua origins from Latin America and is planted in large parts of this area. Moso origins from China, but is also planted in Japan and other Asian countries that have a similar climate.

Bamboo has a lot of advantages for the environment. First thing everybody talks about is the speed in which it grows. It takes a couple of years for the plant to grow to the appropriate thickness and length, but when it does it grows to its maximum height of 22-30 meters (Guadua) or 11-25 meters (Moso).

Bamboo can grow in places where the soil has a very low amount of nutrition. Think about for example eroded slopes. After harvesting bamboo the structure of the roots stays intact and generates new foothills. This way erosion of the soil can be limited.

Importance of good care

It is very important to take good care of the bamboo plantations. When bamboo is harvested at top speed it can be a good replacement for ‘killing’ other tropical forests, however it can be exhausting for the soil. Especially when the leaves and branches are not left for the soil to feed itself on. This is mainly because bamboo grows in places that are already poor in nutrition. This is why it is super important to take good care of the soil the bamboo grows on.

The danger of replacing forest by bamboo

Another negative trend that is going on, is that because of the rising demand in bamboo forests are being replaced by bamboo plantations.  This is of course the opposite of what is supposed to happen, Besides that bamboo plantations on former forest grounds have higher CO2 emission and are more susceptible for epidemics. It is not however proven how many hectares of forest are replaced by bamboo plantations.

Energy usage

Then there is also the energy use that goes with the production and transportation of bamboo. Unprocessed bamboo has very low energy usage, as it only has to be cut and stored. The transportation has higher energy usage than most tropical woods. This is because bamboo stems are hollow and therefore take up more space. This has a massive impact on the durability of bamboo on non-local use. When bamboo has to be processed and laminated it is not more ecologically correct than other types of wood from Europe or Teak from South East Asia.

Conclusion on the durability of bamboo

So bamboo is not by default a durable product, but if it is grown, produced and processed in a responsible way it sure can be. What we can say for sure is that it costs way less of the precious forests we have left in the world and that when it is handled properly should not have too much of an impact on the environment. We are indeed very big fans of this material. Look at for example our Cutting Board & Tray or our Bread & Dip.

If you want to read the full ProBos study that we used as a base for our research in Dutch, you can find it here.