Bamboo has much vaunted sustainability credentials – most notably it’s rapidly renewable status. Depending on climate and soil bamboo can grow 3-10cm per day!
Hard and moderately durable, Bamboo flooring has exploded in supply over the last ten years. Bamboo homeware has proven very popular, in forms as diverse as ironing boards to chopping boards. More recently bamboo has entered the exterior wood market, and one can find bamboo timber decking and outdoor furniture. Bamboo has very limited durability in exterior applications, and for this reason many of the exterior bamboo products have failed. So, is bamboo really the sustainable answer to our timber needs? Well, not really.
Firstly, bamboo is not as high yield as one might think. Plantation radiata pine yields three times the volume of wood fibre per year than bamboo. So while bamboo is fast growing, radiata pine yields significantly more fibre.
Secondly, bamboo is hollow, this means it needs to be ripped into small pieces, then glued together in smaller pieces, a process which relies on resins, heat and energy. Typically this process occurs in China, a country not known for it’s environmentally friendly practices. Some resins emit volatile organic compounds such as formaldehyde.
In summary, bamboo has some great credentials, but should investigated thoroughly prior to use.