Bamboo is one of the fastest-growing plants in the world. In fact, it is capable of growing nearly 4 feet in just one single day. The rate at which it can be produced coupled with the fact that many people are looking for a more eco-friendly way to live, has made bamboo fabric extremely popular. However, bamboo fabric has recently become a hot topic of conversation. The controversy surrounding bamboo rayon relates to the chemical hazards and the environmental damage that harvesting bamboo can create.
Bamboo stalks contain bast fibers that are rough to the touch, similar to hemp linen products. The controversy surrounding bamboo rayon comes from the fact that rayon is generated by cellulose fiber and is far from being all-natural. In fact, these synthetic fibers are well documented to be dangerous to the environment and to the reproductive health of individuals who manufacture the clothing. The process of transforming bamboo into a fabric is called the viscose process. During the process, bamboo is dissolved by solvents to create a solution that can be made into solid fiber. Often times, sulfuric acid or sodium hydroxide is used in this process and both chemicals are dangerous to humans and animal life.
In addition to possibly endangering the reproductive system in humans, the viscose process also results in only 50% recovery of the solvent used. This means that half of all chemicals end up being dumped into the environment either through air emissions or wastewater.
The problem with bamboo is the thickness and durability of the stock. In order to create bamboo clothing, a strong solvent or chemical must be used in order to break it down properly. For this reason, bamboo fabric is not ecological.
Thankfully, there are eco-friendly alternatives to bamboo rayon fabrics: