The bamboo rayon process has come under a lot of scrutiny from advocates of an eco-friendly lifestyle, and governmental agencies. The sad part about this conversation, is that these two groups should be the greatest supporters of such a renewable and sustainable resource. As populations around the world skyrocket, we are having a more difficult time providing the basic resources for this out of control demand. Millions of acreage of forest are depleted every year – and no measures to slow this progress or replace the forests have come. The scary idea could be that we deplete our world of natural timber, just as Haiti has done.
Bamboo rayon fabric is heralded as an amazing product for many obvious reasons. It maintains the same physical properties as cotton, in terms of durability, water absorption, elasticity, etc., but adds wonderful benefits like an extremely soft hand and breathability. Bamboo has often been called the softest sheets in the world, having a 250 thread count sheets being softer than 1000 thread count of cotton. Even a low thread count is a good thread count for bamboo sheets because the molecular makeup of the fibers are softer than cotton could ever be! A good thread count for sheets made from bamboo will always be around 250-300. Even the EPA has noted that “Although the manufacturing process further purifies the cellulose, alters the physical form of the fiber, and modifies the molecular orientation within the fiber and its degree of polymerization, the product is essentially the same chemical as the raw material.” (emphasis added)
Bamboo’s greatest eco-friendly properties come from its growth stages. Bamboo is the #1 fastest growing plant in the world. While trees may take up to 40 years to reach maturity, bamboo takes about three. Bamboo also produces up to 35% more oxygen than any tree would and makes a huge impact on how clean the world’s air is. Compared to cotton, bamboo uses no chemicals in growth; no herbicides, insecticides, or pesticides. Cotton on the other hand, uses a ton of chemicals, and all of them are leeched into surrounding ground water, streams, and the air people breathe. Bamboo is amazingly versatile, and over 1000 uses have been recorded for this plant. The world needs to start seriously considering alternative resources so we can start combating the rampant depletion lifestyle that we are obsessed with.
Some people have commented that the bamboo viscose process was highly polluting. This is only partially true. The bamboo viscose process can be highly polluting. Over 75% of pollutants from the viscose process come in the form of air emissions. That means that as the fabric is washed in different baths, the reaction processes let off carbon disulfide in the air. This would be bad, but by a safety process called carbon adsorption, almost all of those pollutants can be collected. Carbon disulfide is a naturally occurring chemical that is given off from our oceans, volcanoes, and other natural areas. More research can and should be put for to find even finer methods of purifying the vapors given off during the viscose process. But that won’t happen in the United States until bamboo becomes more highly utilized as a source of fiber and timber.