Regenerated Cellulose fibre.
While the crop itself is easy to grow, requiring little water and no pesticides, the processes used to turn it into a usable fabric vary on the sustainability front. In general, bamboo fibres are produced using the viscose process from sustainable sources of Moso Bamboo. Environmental concerns relating to the production of standard viscose apply to the production of Bamboo. A major advantaged claimed by bamboo fibres is a natural anti-bacterial property however exposure to strong acids and alkalines during processing would make this unlikely. Distinction between standard viscose fibres and "bamboo" viscose may not be possible. Use of bamboo fibres is on the increase and finding niche markets where the "antimicrobial" properties are seen as a potential advantage.
Where it grows / Where it is made
Top countries: China - Pakistan - India - Indonesia
Potentially the same as viscose. Currently not penetrating into the corporate clothing sector. Regenerated bamboo has the same potential as viscose fibres and as such could be used in woven fabrics for suit linings.
Impact on the environment
Bamboo is often touted as an eco-friendly fabric, and in some ways, this designation may be accurate.
For instance, bamboo is incredibly easy to grow; it matures very quickly, and it can grow in areas that are not suitable for other crops. Therefore, the environmental impact of cultivating bamboo is relatively minimal in theory, and it's up to individual bamboo cultivators to ensure that their crop is obtained in a sustainable manner.
Ironically, the modern demand for bamboo led many Chinese manufacturers to fell forests of other trees to plant bamboo, which practically eliminates the environmental benefits of this crop. In the late 1990s, however, the Chinese Communist Party instated regulations prohibiting this behavior.
Even if contemporary bamboo cultivation is relatively easy on the environment, the process of producing bamboo viscose is anything but environmentally friendly. While there is generally no risk of consumers encountering toxic chemicals when they wear or use bamboo fabric, a variety of dangerous substances are used to transform raw bamboo into the cellulose that is used to make rayon.
Unlike cellulose from many of the other trees that are commonly used for viscose rayon production, bamboo cellulose is suitable for closed-loop production processes. Therefore, fabrics similar to lyocell can be made with bamboo, and the lyocell production process doesn't produce any toxic waste.
More sustainable alternatives
End of life possibilities
Can be disposed of using all end of life opportunities. Bamboo fibres are essentially the same as viscose and can be treated in the same way. The fibres are 100% cellulose and as such are biodegradable. The fibre has also the potential for re-use and remanufacture. Where used as 100% viscose there is the possibility of using the fabrics as a raw material for regenerated cellulose fibre production. When present in blends, the end of life options are reduced. Blending with other cellulose fibres such as cotton, provide the options of using the fibre as a cellulose raw material for regenerated cellulose fibres. The re-use of the non-woven viscose fabrics will depend on the way they have been manufactured.
Bamboo fabric has a lot of potential as an eco-friendly option. So as long as the brand is transparent about cultivation and processing, it can be a good choice. Otherwise, as for other viscose materials, consider TENCEL™ Lyocell which is made using a 99% closed-loop system, meaning chemicals are captured and reused.