Why do we do bamboo?
The advantages of bamboo
Bamboo is a special crop for many reasons. It is the fastest growing plant on earth. Where traditional wood requires 20 to 50 years to reach its full height, new bamboo stems (or culms) often only need one year to grow till full height. Bamboo grown in Europe is mature in five to six years. Bamboo is a colony plant, and it produces new stems (culms) every year. Every year 5 till 8 culms can be harvested. Once the plantation reaches maturity it creates 15 times more wood per hectare than trees.
Strong and versatile
On the one hand, bamboo has a higher tensile strength than steel, while on the other hand it can form the basis for ultra-soft clothing. It makes bamboo the most versatile plant in the world, one with innumerable uses. There is a growing demand for bamboo fibres for construction applications and products like flooring, furniture, kitchens, food, cosmetics, clothing and medicines. Also energy pellets and charcoal can be produced out of bamboo.
The supply of suitable wood is declining, because 30% of the wood is produced illegally and 40% of the wood is non-sustainable (not certified). Consumer awareness about the devastating effects of deforestation, such as climate change, increases the need for an alternative. Bamboo is one of the answers. Bamboo has been increasingly used as a substitute for tropical hardwood in the European market. Bamboo products are popular due to their characteristics of durability and strength, which resemble the qualities of tropical wood; but it is a much more sustainable alternative.
The demand for bamboo products is growing rapidly worldwide. The worldwide trade in bamboo has quadrupled the last 4 years up to $60 billion. A massive growth in demand for bamboo is expected as more and more manufacturers and consumers have embraced bamboo.
Bamboo is highly sustainable. The sustainability of an European bamboo plantation is guaranteed in several ways.
Production per hectare and ecosystem increase
Bamboo products are more sustainable than the traditional hardwood products because up to 15 times more raw material is produced per hectare while the pressure on the environment in general is much lower. Bamboo plants are never removed completely like trees, but continue to grow after harvesting. A well-managed bamboo plantation can create its own permanent ecosystem.
Easy on soils
The bamboo plant grows fast but will not exhaust the soils, like many other fast growing crops. With its leaves falling and composting on the soil, bamboo works on its own soil improvement and thus is largely self-sufficient. Bamboo thrives on poor soil and is therefore very suitable for reforestation of degraded land.
Climate consequences positive
Bamboo absorbs at least four times as much CO₂ and produces 30% more oxygen than an equivalent stand of trees. In principle carbon credits can be generated with a bamboo plantation.