INBAR is showcasing the potential of bamboo innovations to reduce plastic waste and create more sustainably sourced products
2018 is the year of plastic waste. In November, Collins Dictionary chose ‘single-use’ as its word of the year, reflecting the increasing awareness of and growing action against plastic pollution.
As a renewable, low-carbon substitute to paper and plastics, bamboo could be an excellent alternative to current single-use goods. But it can also do much more, substituting emissions-intensive materials like steel, cement and PVC in a wide range of durable products. In November, INBAR presented about these surprising bamboo innovations in Europe, at the Global Science, Technology and Innovation Conference (GSTIC) held in Brussels.
In a plenary session which ran on 29 November, INBAR Director General Hans Friederich and bamboo sustainability expert, Pablo van der Lugt, presented to a packed hall on the ‘new bamboo’. Pablo, who represents MOSO BV, the largest importer of bamboo construction and interior design material in Europe, discussed the importance of carbon-neutral bamboo products. Hans and Pablo discussed the importance of bamboo’s fast-growing ‘grass’ nature – which allows the plant to create a large amount of durable, carbon-storing products – and talked about how China’s hugely successful bamboo sector is the result of careful government policy and planting.
Hans and Pablo went on to introduce to the stage some leading figures, from Europe and Asia, in the bamboo sector: Charlie Du, from Tsinghua University, who introduced bicycles and wind turbine blades made from bamboo; Ms Shen Genlian, whose company in southern China manufactures bamboo tissue paper; Hans Heijmans, who discussed how the Netherlands is starting to replace traffic signs made from aluminium with signs made from bamboo; Dr Jiang Jingyan, who talked about the growing bamboo industry in Yong’An City; and Ye Lin, whose company in China is producing drainage pipes made from bamboo fibre.
At the end of the session, a bamboo bicycle was presented to Lieve Fransen, a Senior Adviser to the European Policy Centre and the winner of an INBAR-run quiz about bamboo.
The INBAR Secretariat were not the only ones promoting bamboo’s innovative uses. At the UN South-South Expo in New York, Director of the United Nations Forum on Forests and INBAR Board Member, Jan McAlpine, spoke in a session on science and technology. According to McAlpine, “bamboo and rattan are not often the first things you think of when talking about science and technology”, but INBAR works to “show how these plants can make a powerful contribution to our changing world.” She listed a number of ways in which bamboo can contribute to the plastic waste revolution, as a replacement material for papers and single-use plastics, and to more sustainable interior design and manufacturing. She finished by urging all delegates to “think bamboo” when considering sources of sustainable biological materials.
Bamboo innovations have been making headlines around the world in 2018. In January 2018, The Economist ran a profile on China’s latest bamboo products, which include “storm-drainage pipes and shock-resistant exteriors for bullet-train carriages”, predicting that the sector is “about to shoot up”; and in November, bamboo housing shot to international fame with the announcement of a bamboo house design as the winner of the Cities for our Future Challenge, a competition co-ordinated by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyers.
For Hans Friederich’s blog about GSTIC, read here.
For more about INBAR’s work with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, read here.