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Plastic is everywhere. It’s so versatile that it’s used in every known industry. It comes in different forms and it serves different purposes. Plastics are not just used in packaging and storage; they are also in electronic devices, appliances, and other numerous consumer products. They are used in homes and buildings for insulation to make them more energy-efficient. They also come in forms that we don’t normally recognize as plastics such as adhesives, sealants, paints, and linings.
Because plastics have become an indispensable material, it would be very challenging to completely get rid of them. However, we can’t also ignore the fact that the mass production of plastics and the use of plastic products come with critical issues that have negative consequences in the long run:
The good news is that there are plenty of alternatives that are much more sustainable and eco-friendly. Although they don’t offer the same level of durability and convenience that plastics provide, they are less harmful to people, wildlife, and the environment. These alternatives to plastic are not reliant on depleting resources and even if some of them are not biodegradable, they are recyclable, replenishable, or can be sustainably managed.
For storage, packaging, utensils and cutlery, and other uses, manufacturers are now creating products from stainless steel, glass, natural fiber cloth, beeswax-coated fabric, wood, cardboard, paper, bioplastics, and bamboo. Among these substitutes, bamboo is the most versatile and the most sustainable.
Why Bamboo is the Best Alternative
Bamboo is a material that is engineered by nature to simply grow with minimal energy consumption. This makes it a practical and feasible solution to the problem of plastic use. As businesses shift their attention to sustainability and eco-friendly solutions, they turn to bamboo and its potential to help create a sustainably managed system to minimize the negative effects to the environment and natural resources.
Here are convincing reasons why bamboo is the best alternative to plastics.
1. Bamboo production and processing consume minimal energy
Unlike plastic which requires a considerable amount of energy to produce, bamboo consumes minimal energy. In fact, bamboo simply grows. There’s no need to manufacture them. Even when they have to be processed into consumer goods, there are significantly fewer steps in the supply chain and production process.
2. Bamboo sinks carbon dioxide
Typically, the bigger the tree (or plant), the more carbon dioxide it can absorb. That’s why trees play an important role in reducing carbon from the atmosphere. But it’s not just the size of the plant that matters in determining how much the carbon dioxide can be absorbed. It was found out that the rate of growth is also a big factor in the absorption of carbon dioxide. Since bamboo grows extremely fast in a short span of time, it can absorb more carbon. What’s more, bamboo releases 30% more oxygen into the atmosphere compared to trees with equivalent mass. This means bamboo also helps produces clean oxygen.
3. Bamboo grows at a faster rate than trees
Unlike the standard trees that take more than 35 years to grow, bamboo can grow to full size in just three to four months. They mature at a faster rate and can be harvested in just three to five years. In ideal conditions, bamboo can grow three feet tall in about 24 hours. Being the fastest-growing tree on the planet makes it easier to sustainably manage. The supply will be able to keep up with the demand.
4. Bamboo is cheap
Because bamboo grows extremely fast, it is cheaper than wood. It only takes as little as three years for bamboos to fully mature so there will always be an abundant supply. Production costs are significantly lower as well because there’s little to no alteration in its composition to create consumer products. For use in the construction of buildings, it may undergo some more processes but nothing too complicated that it would drive up prices considerably.
5. Bamboo is durable
Highly touted as the “green steel”, bamboo is extremely strong and durable. Bamboo durability varies across different species and it would depend on several factors including wall thickness, culm length, and time of harvest. When bamboo is left untreated and put to the ground, it has natural durability of about two years. If stored properly with cover, it can last up to seven years before it rots. When left outdoors exposed to the elements, it can last for more than 10 years. If used indoors, it will last forever.
6. Bamboo has anti-microbial properties making it safe and hygienic
Bamboo’s natural antibacterial properties prevent the growth of bacteria and other microbes. It does not require any chemical treatment or pesticides because of the presence of bamboo kun, which is the anti-microbial substance found in bamboo fibers. Because of its natural antibacterial substance, bamboo is ideal for making bamboo straws, cutlery, and utensils. It makes the final product naturally hygienic.
7. Bamboo production can sustain communities and provide jobs
If bamboo becomes completely mainstream and becomes the main alternative to plastics, it can provide millions of jobs to different communities worldwide. Companies provide work because more people are required to harvest and process the bamboo. This is particularly beneficial to many developing countries (Asia, Africa, South America, etc.) where most bamboos grow.
8. Bamboo is great for wildlife and the environment
Aside from being carbon sinks, bamboo plants help protect and maintain biodiversity. Bamboo forests create a home and provide food for different species of animals. Wildlife in the forests are sheltered and protected. Bamboo also makes the soil more stable and thus prevents soil erosion and landslides. By growing more bamboo plants, it can mitigate the devastating impact of deforestation and environmental degradation.