Are your bamboo cushions really green?
From toothbrushes to utensils, in recent years bamboo has established itself on the market for zero-waste or eco-responsible objects.
From toothbrushes to utensils, in recent years bamboo has established itself on the market for zero waste or eco-responsible objects. But is it still really the greener option? Metro investigated.
First of all, if bamboo is considered an ecological material it is because it is a plant that grows extremely quickly. It can therefore be grown quickly and in addition it captures CO2 during its growth. Once its use is finished, the bamboo can be composted in the same way as one would throw away a simple branch of wood.
You should not, however, buy just any bamboo gadget without question, convinced that it is automatically a green choice. There are a few things to check before checking out.
One, and this is the most important question for anyone who wants to be green: do we really need it? Because remember that even if the bamboo is grown in an ecological way, it must be brought here, to Canada, generally from Asia, and this transport is not without consequences for the environment.
You also have to think about the life cycle of the product and see what it replaces. “If I have a bamboo product that has a short lifespan that I could have replaced with something that's not bamboo, but is reusable and lasts longer, I'm better off going with the second option. says Andréanne Laurin, co-founder of LOCO zero-waste ecological grocery stores.
For example, there are toothbrushes where you only change the head and always keep the same handle. “The part to be replaced is much smaller, so it's better than replacing an entire toothbrush, even if it's made of bamboo,” suggests Aurore Courtieux-Boinot, waste management specialist.
Choosing the right brands
Contrary to the image they may give themselves, not all companies that make bamboo products are automatically green. For example, “it is possible to have a non-ecological bamboo culture with lots of pesticides”, recalls Andréanne. Lauren. For her, it is therefore important to look at who makes the product and how it is made.
To this end, LOCO grocery stores do business with the OLA Bambou company, which manufactures toothbrushes and cotton swabs, made entirely of bamboo. Their products are made in Drummondville from strips of bamboo transformed with a saw and a sandblaster.
To be compostable, a product must be made entirely of bamboo. In this respect, the bristles of OLA toothbrushes are made of nylon, therefore not compostable. It is therefore necessary to break the head and put it in the trash if you want to be able to put the rest of the handle in the compost – a precision indicated on the packaging.
Jean-Philippe Bergeron, president of 'OLA Bamboo also explains that there are other types of bamboo products, such as tables or counters, whose different pieces may have been assembled with glue. And if there is glue, the product is no longer made of 100% bamboo, bye bye the compost.
He also warns that there are other bamboo by-products that only include a small portion of bamboo fiber mixed with plastic. The objective is “to use the term bamboo because it is trendy”, which Jean-Philippe Bergeron qualifies as greenwashing. These are often so-called “bamboo” tableware items that are “as eco-friendly as a normal plastic plate since as soon as you incorporate plastic into the mix, the positive effect of bamboo disappears”, according to him.
Fortunately, the two types of products can easily be distinguished: “If the texture looks like wood, it's probably compostable. If it looks like plastic, it won't,” explains Jean-Philippe Bergeron.
Even if the bamboo has its flaws, “companies that have embarked on bamboo had their intentions in the right place,” believes Aurore Courtieux-Boinot. “They are now in a process to better understand the ecological cycle of products and find even more interesting alternatives such as local wood scraps.”
In this regard, OLA Bambou is preparing to launch a maple toothbrush in the pharmacy in the next few weeks. “Maple hasn't traveled halfway around the world to come here,” says Jean-Philippe Bergeron. In this case, the toothbrushes will be made from wood scraps from a guitar factory located in Richmond in Estrie for a 100% Quebec product. No more ambiguities of bamboo.