Is bamboo viscose biodegradable? 

This article will explain the biodegradability status of bamboo viscose. Other covered topics would include:

  • Is bamboo viscose natural?
  • Is bamboo viscose biodegradable?
  • Is bamboo viscose toxic?
  • What are other terms for bamboo viscose?
  • How bamboo viscose is made?
  • Is bamboo viscose better than other fabrics?
  • What is the environmental impact of bamboo viscose?
  • Can bamboo viscose compete with other fabrics in the supply chain?
  • FAQs

Is bamboo viscose biodegradable?

Bamboo viscose is termed semi-synthetic fibre because of chemically altered cellulose and therefore, its biodegradability time is significantly greater than other natural fibres. However, it can be termed biodegradable because it does, after all, get degraded by the action of microbes. 

The chemicals used to treat bamboo viscose may be good for their utility but can also raise a number of health concerns that may include allergies and skin reactions. 

Bamboo viscose or bamboo rayon are often used interchangeably because they are essentially the same. Both bamboo viscose and bamboo rayon go through the same process of cellulose extraction. The term “viscose” is mostly used in the U.S while the rest of the world uses “rayon”.

If bamboo is compared with other fabrics, bamboo viscose takes the lead because of its naturality and renewability of its source which is bamboo. 

Is bamboo viscose natural?

Somewhat, and the reason has to be understood. The name bamboo when used does not mean that everything that uses bamboo becomes a natural product itself and the same is the case with bamboo viscose. 

Due to the fact that the cellulose obtained from bamboo pulp is chemically altered, it cannot, therefore, be labelled as “natural” but at the same time, it cannot be labelled as “synthetic” as well because it is sourced from bamboo which is natural. Bamboo viscose can more precisely be called “semi-synthetic”. 

Is bamboo viscose biodegradable?

As we understand that bamboo viscose is neither completely natural nor completely synthetic. This will help us explain its biodegradability.

The biodegradability of a substance means that it can be degraded by nature in less than a year. Almost all the natural substances that are organic are biodegradable, but the case with bamboo viscose is that it has chemically altered cellulose. Cellulose itself is biodegradable but when altered. The time required for it to biodegrade increases.

This explains why bamboo viscose requires almost a year to degrade in nature but still, it is generally considered biodegradable as it degrades in almost a year.

By definition, biodegradability is the breakdown that is caused by microbes (bio) and facilitated by external factors that may include aeration, temperature, and sunlight. 

It is an effective parameter to assess how sustainable and eco-friendly a product or material is. A general rule of thumb is that natural materials are rather sustainable and thus biodegradable whereas non-natural materials tend to deviate from this trend. 

The same is observed in our case since bamboo viscose is derived from a natural source and considered biodegradable. 

Is bamboo viscose toxic?

Bamboo viscose itself is not toxic but the chemicals used in its production are toxic and harmful to the environment. Most bamboo viscose produced today is made in China or India where few or no regulations exist which makes it highly probable that these chemicals may be left untreated and thrown directly into wastewater.

Another thing to consider is that treatment with these chemicals also leaves these substances on bamboo fabric which may be harmful to people with sensitive skin. The fact that their use during production harms the workers cannot be ignored also. 

What are the different terms for bamboo viscose? (3 terms) 

Bamboo viscose, bamboo rayon and bamboo lyocell are often used interchangeably because of their extended similarity. Both bamboo viscose and bamboo rayon go through the same process of cellulose extraction. The term “viscose” is mostly used in the U.S while the rest of the world uses “rayon”.

However, bamboo lyocell is a different product, not in terms of the final product which is essentially the same as bamboo viscose or rayon because it also is made by the extraction of cellulose from bamboo pulp. But it has to do with the way cellulose is extracted. We have seen the process of making viscose that uses harmful chemicals.

The case with bamboo lyocell is that it is made using a closed-loop system which means that it does not chemically alter the structure of cellulose which makes the final product 100% organic and that may well be the reason that bamboo lyocell is way more biodegradable than bamboo viscose. 

Bamboo lyocell also uses reusable solvents which makes the process more eco-friendly but at the same time, the process becomes energy intensive and requires a lot more energy so as eco-friendly as it may sound, there is always something fishy behind the scenes.

What is bamboo viscose? and how is it made?

Bamboo viscose is a type of fibre made from bamboo trees. It is an amazing concept because we generally know bamboo to be a plant that is used for all sorts of construction purposes. It is astounding that a plant so strong can be used for manufacturing clothes that are so soft as to appear as silk.

Bamboo viscose is basically made by extracting cellulose from the bamboo pulp by processing it through the use of certain chemicals. The process involves chemicals that are infamous in the environmental sector for their high environmental impact.

The process starts by exposing tiny chunks of bamboo to sodium hydroxide (a toxic chemical) in order to separate cellulose and afterwards it is compressed into sheets and then exposed to carbon disulphide (another toxic chemical), this results in a viscous syrup (hence the name).

The syrup is pushed through tiny holes to form filaments which are then immersed in a bath of sulphuric acid and sodium sulfate. Finally, the filaments are spun into yarn which is then used to form fabrics. The chemicals used in the whole process are highly toxic and dangerous to the environment. 

Is bamboo viscose better than conventional fabric? 

Yes, if it comes to the question of which fabric is better, then bamboo viscose takes the lead and there are several reasons for it why bamboo viscose is more desirable than cotton-based fabrics.

Cotton is a plant that has been well documented for its high environmental impact due to the intensive use of fertilisers and pesticides because cotton is prone to plant diseases caused by fungi.

Bamboo on the other hand is almost free from being infected by fungi. It is the fastest-growing plant on earth. It requires less than one-third of the water used by cotton. Its roots are deep which helps prevent soil erosion. It does not need to be replanted and it can produce 30% more oxygen and sequester 30% more carbon dioxide in comparison with other plants.

All of these benefits make bamboo a miracle plant which can be used in almost every industry and have the lowest environmental impact of any comparative plant which makes bamboo viscose better than conventional fabric

What is the environmental impact of bamboo viscose?

The impact of bamboo viscose lies in the area of production whereby the chemicals used are highly toxic and harmful to the environment. 

These chemicals are mostly single-use and cannot be used again and as we know that most of the countries producing bamboo viscose fabric have no to little regulations for its production so there is a high chance that these chemicals are getting into our environment untreated leaving us with a problem.

Can bamboo viscose compete with conventional fabric for the supply chain?

Yes, definitely. As we have discussed earlier, bamboo trees have multiple benefits over cotton as a plant which can easily take it to the forefront of the textile industry. 

The only thing that is required is that the consumers push for more bamboo viscose fabric which can force the manufacturers to source their fabric from bamboo.

Conclusion 

It is concluded that bamboo viscose is termed semi-synthetic fibre because of chemically altered cellulose and therefore, its biodegradability time is significantly greater than other natural fibres. However, it can be termed biodegradable because it is, after all, degraded by the action of microbes. 

The chemicals used to treat bamboo viscose may be good for their utility but can also raise a number of health concerns that may include allergies and skin reactions. 

Bamboo viscose or bamboo rayon are often used interchangeably because they are essentially the same. Both bamboo viscose and bamboo rayon go through the same process of cellulose extraction. The term “viscose” is mostly used in the U.S while the rest of the world uses “rayon”.

If bamboo is compared with other fabrics, bamboo viscose takes the lead because of its naturality and renewability of its source which is bamboo. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Is Bamboo viscose biodegradable?

Is bamboo viscose natural or synthetic?

Bamboo viscose is termed semi-synthetic fibre because of chemically altered cellulose and therefore, its biodegradability time is significantly greater than other natural fibres. 

What are the other names for bamboo viscose?

Bamboo viscose is also called bamboo rayon. Both are often used interchangeably because they are essentially the same. The term “viscose” is mostly used in the U.S while the rest of the world uses rayon.

References:

  • Xu, Y., Lu, Z., & Tang, R. (2007). Structure and thermal properties of bamboo viscose, Tencel and conventional viscose fibre. Journal of thermal analysis and calorimetry, 89(1), 197-201. 

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