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Bamboo Clothing: Life Cycle and Sustainability

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In recent times, Bamboo clothing has created a buzz in the fashion industry. We all have been witnessing the rise of bamboo usage in the garments we wear. From small-scale businesses to multinational companies, a lot of fashion business corporations are promoting the use of bamboo in clothing. But, what exactly is bamboo? And, how is it incorporated into our clothes? Let’s dig deeper into this.


What is Bamboo?


Bamboo is a tall and fastest growing grass (yes, it’s not a tree!) that regenerates from its roots and requires low maintenance. Believed to be native to China, this naturally renewable plant is largely grown in the tropical and subtropical areas of Southeast Asia, Africa, Latin America, southern regions of the USA and colder regions of the UK. Bamboo is one such eco-crop that is widely known for its strength, durability and flexibility. Also considered the most important resource of the economy in various regions, bamboo has great potential in multiple areas including construction, food, biofuel, paper and textiles. 


How is Bamboo grown? 


The world’s fastest growing plant, Bamboo, is extremely easy to grow and maintain. It is regarded as a sustainable material because of its tendency to grow rapidly without any need for chemical fertilisers and pesticides. No large amount of water, labour and supervision is required to emerge this plant. Moreover, its propensity to self-propagate, unlike other plants makes it an incredibly renewable plant. Highly adaptable in the tropical and subtropical regions of the world, this crop has over 1200 varieties. 


How bamboo is made into fabric? 


As a raw material, bamboo has endless possibilities. One such is bamboo fibre – an incredibly durable resource to be used in clothing fabric. Bamboo fibre is developed from crop to cloth in two manners, namely- 


Mechanical Production: The bamboo plant is crushed and broken down into thin fibres. The fibres are then combed and spun into threads, which are eventually woven into a fabric. This method of creating fabric is labour intensive and typically more expensive. It results in a raw and coarse texture of the fabric.


Chemical Production: The bamboo stalk is dissolved by a few toxic liquid chemicals that convert the stalk into pulpy cellulose strands. These long strands are twisted into yarns and are then woven into the fabric.

The chemical way of producing bamboo fabric results in a softer texture but is extremely harmful to the planet and human health. Almost 50% of the waste generated can not be reused and thus, directly affects the environment enormously. 


Is Bamboo fibre really sustainable?


While the characteristics and the growing process of the bamboo plant are sustainable, it is the chemical process of converting the crop into the fabric that impacts the ecosystem negatively. The harmful chemicals used in the process affect the environment and human health at so many levels that all the aspects of it being eco-friendly are lost. While the mechanical conversion of the plant into the fabric is beneficial to the environment, the chemical conversion is drastically opposite. 


Can Bamboo fabric be recycled? 


The bamboo fabric is entirely obtained from the plant without mixing any blending agent. However, the chemical way of producing the fabric develops a risk. Due to the use of harmful chemicals in heavy amounts during the chemical production of the material, the researchers and published studies advise not to recycle it conventionally. It will, in fact, abject the whole objective of recycling. On the contrary, the fabric developed without any chemical processing is completely recyclable and doesn’t harm the environment in any manner.


Why should you buy bamboo clothing?


Bamboo clothing is a whole package of goodness. Good characteristics of fabric like sweat absorbency, UV resistance, antibacterial, odourless, durability, solid strength, wrinkle resistance, and eco-friendliness among others make bamboo clothing a conscious choice to have in your closet. Moreover, it is better than conventional cotton, wool and silk.

Photo by monika karaivanova on Unsplash