The good, the bad and the ugly plastic alternatives
Bamboo is such a versatile material for providing green alternatives to modern plastics and environment pollutants.
It is a fast growing plant that requires minimal watering and grows strong and looks attractive in a garden. It may need to have it's roots contained as some of the 1,000 varieties are invasive you could end up with more than you bargained for.
Good bamboo products
Not only can it be used in it's whole form, it can be used in much the same way as wood to create paper, and as cotton to make fabrics. It can be sliced and layered in molds to produce bowls and plates.
When used in it's natural form, it is a strong pole with a hollow centre - in Asia it is a cheap method for irrigation, for gardeners to channel water over their crops, and also to construct protection to keep off the hot sun. In the UK, we use it as straws, the natural pipe is a great substitute for plastic straws. We also use it in the home and garden; as support beans and peas, as screening to partition areas of the garden and to provide more privacy.
With minimal processing it provides a pleasant alternative to plastic cutlery and baby cutlery - also light, it can be used over and over again . Perfect for picnics and meals on the go. We also have a disposable cutlery set, a box of 50 knives, forks and spoons, a great alternative to plastic and you don't have to wash it up - just put it somewhere it can break down and feed the worms.
Paper alternatives are great for taking the pressure off trees, bamboo is very quick growing and can be grown almost anywhere in the world, so producing a viable alternative to the rather vast quantities of toilet paper used worldwide, an ecofriendly bamboo loo roll made in the country of use.
The bad bamboo products
Every stage of processing comes with an environmental price - the machines to process, the water useage, and transporting items around the world. However this is how plastic items are currently produced,
Ironically, making bamboo products look pretty is one of the worst parts of finding plastic alternatives. The dyeing process. The colouring of materials is costing the planet - and it is not widely spoken about. Both to the environment and to our skin, the effects on our wellbeing of fake colours in our clothes and bedding is unknown. Artifical colourings in foods have long known to have an effect on behaviour.
The ugly bamboo products
Bamboo cups are not naturally good at holding hot drinks - they don't last very long, to make the cup reuseable the bamboo is process to a powder and bound with formaldehyde and melamine - which can leach into the liquids left in the cups. It is this combination of heat and liquid that is the problem. Not just bamboo cups, but plates and bowls are also made this way. It makes them last longer and gives a nice shiny finish.
The nasty chemicals are also leached into food and drink when the items are used in the microwave. Some producers of cups have safety tests that show when used within guidelines their cups are safe. It is worth checking those data sheets if you want to use the bamboo mugs.