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article imageBusting the Bamboo Bubble

By R. C. Camphausen     Feb 7, 2010 in Business
During the last years, textiles made from bamboo have become known as more or less green and sustainable products, and this has led a number of producers to erroneously label many a rayon product as made from bamboo.
Less than a week ago, on February 3rd, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has sent a letter to 78 retailers warning them that they sell, distribute and advertise clothing and other items labelled as being made from bamboo, while in fact they are produced from rayon - a chemically treated substance the production of which releases hazardous air pollution.
Among the recipients of the FTC letter were well known companies such as, Bloomingdale’s, The Gap, Walmart and Toys R Us, warning these and the other retailers they could face fines if they continue to lure green customers by selling rayon clothing labeled as originating with bamboo. Bloomberg Business Week quotes David C. Vladeck, head of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection as saying: “We need to make sure companies use proper labeling and advertising in their efforts to appeal to environmentally conscious consumers. Rayon is rayon, even if bamboo has been used somewhere along the line in the manufacturing process.”
This latest action by the FTC follows last August's lawsuits involving four companies who sold products labeled or advertised as bamboo that were, in fact, made of rayon. These lawsuits challenged claims that the products were made using an environmentally friendly process and that they retain the much hailed antimicrobial properties of bamboo.
It is interesting to note that improper labeling could subject any company found guilty of doing so to a fine that can be as high a 16,000 US$ --- per violation!
Bamboo plant on the Indonesian island of Bali
Bamboo plant on the Indonesian island of Bali
What is it that speaks for bamboo fabric?
- the material is a natural textile made from the pulp of the bamboo grass
- it is more sustainable than most textile fiber because it rarely needs pesticides and herbicides
- the fabric is light, strong, and has excellent wicking properties
- it has antibacterial properties that are retained even after multiple washings
And what speaks against rayon?
Rayon is a textile made from cellulose, usually made from wood pulp although other plant matter may be used, including bamboo. However. the fabrication process includes the use of harsh chemicals, for example carbon disulphide and sodium hydroxide, that are not environmentally friendly and pollute the air with hazardous material.
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