Is bamboo better than plastic?

That's the million-dollar question. But first…

What is bamboo?

Did you know that bamboo is a fast-growing grass, not a tree? According to Guinness World Records, some bamboo species can grow up to 2.91 ft/day — or 1.5 inches/hr! 

There are over 1000 species of bamboo. It grows from its roots, and when it is cut, it quickly grows back, with most species maturing in 3-5 years.

Bamboo is an incredibly strong yet lightweight material. As it's technically a grass, not a tree, there are no weak points along its length. This makes it stronger and more durable than even the toughest hardwoods or steel!

Steel has a tensile strength of 23,000 pounds per square inch, but bamboo surpasses steel with a noticeable lead at 28,000 pounds per square inch.

Bamboo has been used to build houses, furniture, and fences for a long time, even before its tensile strength was known. 

What makes bamboo eco-friendly?

Bamboo is naturally renewable. It requires little maintenance to farm as it doesn't need any pesticides or herbicides and very little water to grow.

One of bamboo's most significant environmental benefits is its ability to absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. 

Compared to an equivalent tree mass, bamboo produces 35% more oxygen, and research has shown that bamboo can absorb as much as 12 tonnes of carbon dioxide per hectare per year. 

Bamboo properties and applications.

  • Naturally antibacterial. This means that the plant doesn't need to be treated with any pesticides while it's growing, which reduces water pollution in the area where it's cultivated. This also makes bamboo the perfect material for an item such as a toothbrush, which you’ll want to keep sanitary at all times.
  • High-temperature resistant. Because it contains large amounts of silicate acid, bamboo is abnormally flame resistant.
  • Biodegradable. It can be composted at home or buried in the ground and returned to the earth.
  • Bamboo fibers are breathable, that's why they are used for clothing.
  • Bamboo charcoal is an excellent deodorant due to its absorbability.

If you’re considering buying something made from bamboo it’s probably because you want to reduce how much plastic you use.  

Going back to our question, there's no easy answer, and all too often the answer is: it depends.

Facts that are clear:  

  1. Bamboo is a highly sustainable natural renewable resource. Plastic isn’t. 
  2. Plastic is polluting a large part of our environment. Bamboo isn’t.
  3. Most bamboo can be composted. Plastic can never be composted. 

Outside of these facts it gets more complicated.

It all depends what you’re comparing. A bamboo toothbrush is definitely better than a plastic one. Especially since you have to replace it every 3 months.

A plastic container will last over 10 years if cared for properly. Can we say the same for bamboo containers? Maybe, or maybe not. Mold is definitely a concern when exposed to liquids or high humidity environments.