Sustainability of Different Approaches to Bamboo Textile Production
The textile industry has one of the worst reputations in the manufacturing sector for its lack of sustainability. The environmental and social footprint of textiles has grown with increased automation, competition, and globalization. The most prominent environmental impacts relate to energy and toxic chemical use, while social impacts include low wages and poor working conditions. These detrimental impacts necessitate sustainable changes not only in each phase of the textile life cycle, but also on a holistic systems-level. Bamboo emerged in the past ten years as a renewable feedstock for textile production. It is an abundant, grassy species that has been touted as one of the most sustainable crops in the world. It grows in abundance like a weed, uses minimal water, sequesters carbon, does not require fertilizers or pesticides, and grows several feet each day. Bamboo cultivation also has the potential to alleviate poverty in developing countries. Retailers advertise bamboo fabrics as light, soft, breathable, naturally antibacterial, and fully biodegradable. Yet because the textile supply chain is so segmented, these companies may have little knowledge of a garment’s production process upstream. Thus, many advertising claims of bamboo fabric’s sustainability and quality are passed through the supply chain with limited verification. Between 2008 and 2010 the sustainability of the production processes and the validity of bamboo fabric’s unique characteristics were questioned by various national authorities, casting a shadow on the bamboo textile industry. Major retailers were warned against the false advertising of the fabrics, and several were even fined for misleading consumers. The main objective of this research is to build the body of knowledge on bamboo textiles. The intended audience is consumers, garment designers, and retailers. The study analyses bamboo textiles in the wake of warnings against misleading eco-labelling. It focuses on the manufacturing methods, impacts, and opportunities to improve sustainability for bamboo textiles. In particular it focuses on the processes which convert bamboo to fibres.