Bamboo Fiber Composites: A sustainable plastic alternative

By PSU EcoMerge Capstone - 7:58 PM














Bamboo Fiber Composites: A sustainable plastic alternative.

 We are all aware that plastics have become indispensable in our everyday lives. But there seems to be two critical issues raised with the mass production and the use of plastic products. 

First and most importantly is the FACT that plastic does not biodegrade.  No natural process can break it down (it is this fact that make the product so useful to humans).  Rather than biodegrade, plastic photodegrades: meaning it fragments into smaller and smaller pieces without breaking into simpler compounds.  This is what makes plastic so harmful to wildlife and the environment.

The second issue raised in the production of plastic, is its reliance on petroleum. The problem here is that petroleum products are neither renewable nor sustainable.  Petroleum products (usually in the form of liquefied petroleum gases (LPG), natural gas liquids (NGL), and natural gas) are used as feedstock and as fuel in the manufacturing process of plastics.  In 2010 the use of LPG and NGL for the production of plastic in the United States accounted for 2.7 percent of total petroleum consumption.

There are plenty of biodegradable and non-petroleum based plastic alternatives, but many do not provide the lightweight, durability, or convenience of plastics.  But, there is one product that seems to be on the rise as a sustainable and biodegradable alternative to plastic.  Bamboo Fiber Composites are a result of mixing bamboo fiber into a polymer matrix, resins, or glue, resulting in a lightweight, biodegradable plastic alternative.  The new processes used in the manufacturing of bamboo fiber composite materials recently became more eco-friendly and organic too.  The new processing methods are done completely mechanically, rather than with harsh chemicals. 

Bamboo fiber also has several advantages over other natural plant based composites.  For one it is the fastest growing woody plant in the world.  Certain species have been known to grow up to 35 inches in a single day.  Secondly, bamboo sequesters CO2 for photosynthesis at a higher rate than other plant based options.  The third advantage of bamboo fiber composites is the abundance of bamboo across the globe. Coupled with being extremely light and elastic, bamboo seems to be a sustainable, environmentally friendly, and advantageous alternative to petroleum based products. 

If you're in the Portland area and want to check out some bamboo fiber composites for yourself, stop by bamboo revolution at 1300 SE Grand Ave.  You will be impressed with how much this biodegradable alternative looks and feels like the plastic we have all become too familiar with.  Below are some photos of example products and prices for bamboo composite kitchenware. 
  
































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