Look for bamboo’s role in bioplastics (and as a plastics replacement) to grow because of contributions in the climate change argument, as well as a program by China to boost its cultivation.
The case for bamboo is pretty impressive. It can grow as fast as 35 inches in a 24-hour period. And it’s the king of carbon sequestration.
According to the Economist, Chinese bamboo revenues have soared 500-fold since 1981. And they are expected to grow another 50 per cent in the next three years due to government subsidies.
Crushed bamboo is compounded with polypropylene, ABS or EVA rubber and made into a composite that is used in applications such as decking and fencing. One Chinese producer (Bamtec) says the bamboo improves the mechanical properties of the composite and also acts as a natural deodorant.
LG of Korea is developing a bioplastic for automotive interiors using TPO and starch derived from bamboo. GM is developing bamboo slats that can be used as interior trim. Mitsubishi is using bamboo as a reinforcing fiber in biodegradable plastic for interior car parts.
One American company that has developed a new bamboo application is Bamshaft of Arnold, Maryland. Inventor Paul Cain believes that bamboo makes an improved shaft material for lacrosse sticks, but the process is not easy.
Sugars must be removed to improve resistance to warping and cracking. One way is to treat the material with pressurized steam in an autoclave. Or, bamboo may be placed into a chemical bath of sodium hydroxide. Next, sections of bamboo are pressed flat to create layers and are then dried before joining.
The result is a flexible stick—warm to the touch– with tensile and shear that may exceed aluminum.
In a newly developed Chinese broom, the handle is made from bamboo and the brushes are made from recycled plastic bottles.