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Spain could become key player in European bamboo market
Spain could play a key role in establishing a European bamboo industry, according to a collective of experts and representatives from private sector, academia and governmental and non-governmental institutions at the first ever symposuim of its type to be held in Europe.
All photos © García Peña, Madrid
1 October 2019, Madrid, Spain – Bamboo, the fast-growing grass, could be an important alternative to single use plastic and other polluting industries in Europe, according to experts speaking at a conference in Madrid. Speakers highlighted the particular role of Spain as a “gateway” for the development of the continent’s bamboo sector.
The conference, which was co-organised by the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation and Spanish bamboo specialists Bambusa, hosted representatives from a number of European institutions, including the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, UN-Habitat, AECID, and COPADE, emphasised the important role of bamboo in construction, circular economy, climate change and as a replacement for single-use plastic.
Speaking on behalf of Spain’s Ministry of Agriculture, Deputy Director of herbaceous grasses and olive oil Mrs Silvia Capdevila said that bamboo “holds great potential” for Spain as both a sustainable and climate-smart alternative to traditional industries and as an ecosystem service in the fight against climate change. The symposium offered an opportunity for the Ministry to increase its knowledge base on bamboo, its products and services, and best practices in sustainable bamboo management.
According to H.E Carmenza Jaramillo, Ambassador of Colombia to Hungary (left), “Europe is the best market for bamboo products in the world. And with its close links to South America, Spain is well placed to become a gateway for these products.” She underlined the important role that INBAR had to play in supporting European countries to develop their bamboo industries as it has done in countries around the world such as Ecuador. The Ambassador of Ecuador to Spain, H.R Cristobal Roldan was also there to outline how the bamboo industry in his country, once blighted by a reputation of ‘poor man’s timber’ for low-cost housing only, is moving into the 21st century with rapid development and innovation bolstered by a strong tradition of working with the material.
Fast growing, versatile and bio-degradeable, bamboo is already used around the world in a wide variety of products. Earlier this year, Portuguese airline Hi Fly replaced its in-flight plastic crockery with bamboo equivalents. The European Union is already the world’s largest important importer of bamboo, buying over USD 500 million-worth of bamboo products in 2015, but currently only has a small market for producing bamboo goods.
Bamboo could have a role to play in reducing the environmental impact of Spain’s construction industry, which according to architect Jaime Baladron Laborda comprises 41% of the country’s natural resource consumption. The structural properties of bamboo, characterised by high tensile strength, elasticity and unidirectional fibre strength, make it an intriguing choice for a wide variety of uses in construction. A growing number of architects, designers and engineers are exploring how natural bamboo culms or engineered bamboo can replace high-carbon materials such as timber, steel or concrete in aesthetically pleasing, sustainable, strong structures such as the bamboo-clad roof of Madrid Barajas airport, the largest such use in the world. The symposium offered summaries of the current industry knowledge in building standards, fire protection, regulations, architectural design and more to inspire and teach participants.
According to Ali Mchumo, Director General of the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR), bamboo is already being used to replacing single-use plastic in cutlery, cups, straws, paper and packaging, and as a lower-carbon alternative for flooring, cladding and beams.
For Ali Mchumo (right), the development of a bamboo sector in Europe is “overdue.” “Around the world, we see bamboo being used as energy, to create houses, as a material for everything from shipping container flooring to wind turbine blades… Now, we need Europe to see what bamboo can do.”
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Established in 1997, the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR) is an intergovernmental development organisation that promotes environmentally sustainable development using bamboo and rattan. It is currently made up of 45 Member States. In addition to its Secretariat Headquarters in China, INBAR has five Regional Offices in Cameroon, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Ghana and India.
Bamboo, the fast-growing grass plant, and rattan, the spiky climbing palm, can be important nature-based solutions to a number of pressing global challenges, for poverty alleviation, green trade, climate change mitigation, resilient construction and environmental protection. INBAR’s mission is to improve the well-being of producers and users of bamboo and rattan within the context of a sustainable bamboo and rattan resource base, by consolidating, coordinating and supporting strategic and adaptive research and development.
Bambusa Estudio is an Spanish company with over a decade of specialising in the import of bamboo canes and derivatives to companies and individuals, structural design and building of structures, decorative elements and custom made furniture as well as in delivering training related to bamboo. www.bambusa.es