In New Zealand, "bamboo" fabric is marketed as being environmentally friendly because it uses bamboo as a raw material. However, my understanding is that the end product is a completely different substance from whatever it is they extract out of bamboo, thanks to a chemical process being applied to it.

  1. What chemicals are used in the process of converting bamboo into fabric?

  2. How toxic are they to the environment and workers during production?

  3. Is the bamboo fabric itself toxic to humans once it has been manufactured?

  4. Will it biodegrade without adding toxins to the environment?

  5. How long will it take to biodegrade?

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    I'd be interested to know also about these corn starch fibres, which apparently are similar to polyester. – Earthliŋ Aug 28 '13 at 0:47
  • The Wikipedia article on bamboo textiles has some description of the different methods of manufacture, which change the answers to your questions: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bamboo_textiles – Rachel Williams Sep 23 '13 at 22:59

The United States Federal Trade Commission reports that many "bamboo" fabrics are simply rayon that had been produced using bamboo as a raw source material. This appears to be the prevalent method of producing fabrics from bamboo, and several companies in the USA have been penalized for false advertising as a result of claims they made regarding "bamboo" textiles. Based on this and the Wikipedia article linked in the question comments, I am inclined to say that you need to do very careful research to avoid purchasing "bamboo" products that (1) were processed using harsh chemicals, (2) present possible environmental risks due to the use of those chemicals, and (4) won't readily biodegrade. The answers to (3) and (5) can probably be found by researching rayon.

Right now, I think it's best to avoid "bamboo" textiles unless you have found convincing evidence that they were produced in an environmentally-friendly and sustainable way.

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  • I guess the same holds for "corn starch fibres"? – Earthliŋ Sep 25 '13 at 9:50
  • The corn-based fibers are produced using metal compounds as catalysts, but the process seems gentler and the final product appears to be quite a bit friendlier than bamboo rayon. I've only read the Wikipedia article, but it's the same stuff used for biodegradable forks and cups. It isn't perfect, but it apparently degrades safely within the human body when used for temporary medical implants. – Evan Johnson Sep 25 '13 at 16:08

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