Bamboo fiber has been enduring the brunt of calling it's being eco-friendly as "false." When FTC or Federal Trade Commission charged four companies of deceptively advertising that their products are made of 100% bamboo fiber, speculations about its not being truly "green" surged. FTC further questioned the products' antimicrobial and biodegradable characteristics, along with saying 3 of those four companies processed the bamboo products through non-environment friendly manufacturing. But are your eco-friendly bamboo clothes really not eco-friendly?
The main issue questioning the authenticity of bamboo products' green trait is fueled by the use of toxic chemicals used in the process of producing the fabric. The process of production basically runs this way: (1) The leaves and soft pith inside the bamboo stalk are extracted through an industrial steaming process, and then (2) mechanically crushed. A chemical called (3) sodium hydroxide, also known as lye and caustic soda, is added to aid in breaking down the woody parts of bamboo. The hard parts are then turned into smooth liquid, enabling them to be (4) squirted through tiny nozzles into threads.
Now, that is the controversial part - the use of sodium hydroxide. Just what is there about sodium hydroxide that makes the bamboo fabric productions harsh to the environment? Sodium hydroxide is a very strong chemical that requires responsible usage. Responsibly using it can do workers in direct proximity, only eye irritation as the worst case. However, irresponsible use can cause poisoning and death. If uncontained, the chemical can cause toxic spill.
During bamboo fabric production, sodium hydroxide is treated in order to avoid any harm. The threads or the pulverized bamboo are (5) soaked in an acid bath. This acid bath is the substance that (6) breaks the sodium hydroxide bonds and (7) converts them to inert salt and water. At the end of the process, no residue of harmful chemicals is left in the fabric. When the OEKO-Tex100 certified the products, it means safe use for everyone. Further, chemicals are contained within the factory, reused and recycled.
But isn't it true that the manufacturing process of the bamboo fabric removes any natural characteristics of the original cellulose, hence it's only right for FTC to classify them as viscose rayon? That is hardly the case as there is a new method for converting plant cellulose into a usable fiber called lyocell, which can retain the natural characteristics of the cellulose in the final product. Can your bamboo nursing scrubs be really eco-friendly then? Yes.