Paper from wood or bamboo: Which packaging material is "more sustainable"?

In addition to wood (fibre), there are various materials such as reed, grass, (recycled) cotton and therefore bamboo which can serve as raw materials for the production of paper. By adding bamboo paper products to our range, we are now increasingly being asked by our customers to what extent bamboo is more sustainable than certified sustainable wood. When conducting research that addresses sustainability, one can’t find a complete answer, because there are different shapes and applications of bamboo and wood. For example, we offer not only bamboo paper packaging, but also skewers, tongs and soon cutlery sets of untreated bamboo. Moreover, sustainability is not black and white issue, but more of a process where we look into the entire (paper) production chain from a circular point of view. In view of this, bamboo paper has unique characteristics, which offer ecological advantages - compared to wood-based paper -.


What is bamboo exactly?

Bamboo is mainly found in countries with a tropical to subtropical climate. Contrary to what many may expect, bamboo is not a tree, but a type of grass. Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plant species in the world and grows so fast that the plant shoots to its maximum length and can reach full maturity within one growing season, i.e. in a few months. There are even bamboo species that can grow up to 30 meters in two months. Bamboo grows without the help of fertilizers or pesticides, even on nutrient-poor soil, and after cutting, the plant continues to grow. This ensures that bamboo can be harvested annually. After all, bamboo plants are self-generating, after harvesting new trunks grow from the root system. Because the roots remain intact in the soil, soil erosion is prevented.


Other sustainable properties of bamboo (paper)

During growth, bamboo produces about 30-35% percent more oxygen than other plants and trees and at the same time, absorbs on average 2 to 2.5 times as much CO2 as wood. This is mainly due to the rapid growth of bamboo. During the production process, bamboo leaves virtually no unwanted by-products. Bamboo is a completely biodegradable material, which applies to both cutlery and bamboo paper packaging. This property is preserved by applying a compostable coating, against moisture and grease, to the bamboo paper products. The bamboo fibre is also quite flexible, which is why the bamboo paper is also smooth. The bamboo paper looks like regular paper. It has the same quality and can be used in the same way.


More bamboo paper, less wood paper?

Wood is a natural and renewable raw material and therefore an environmentally friendly material. An important condition for this is that new trees are planted after the logging. Sustainable wood and paper products are therefore often certified with wood labels, such as FSC and PEFC, to demonstrate sustainable forest management. Still, logging often has an ecological impact as it takes many years, often 40 to 50 years, for a tree to mature or reach its maximum height. For example, the fastest growing tree grows three times slower than bamboo. The production of wood emits less CO2 than other building materials, but the production of bamboo has an even lower CO2 emission than that of wood fibers and even recycled wood fibers. The global demand for paper and cardboard has increased significantly in recent years, partly due to the ban on plastic. The timber industry has created more forests in response to the rising forests, which need time to grow. Responsible alternatives such as bamboo paper are therefore not only a welcome, but even a necessary addition to our sustainable range.

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