The Bamboo Effect: How Bamboo Paper is Changing the Industry
A bamboo tsunami is disrupting the papermaking sector.
As consumers become more eco-conscious, they’re willing to buy bamboo paper.
Because of this demand, sustainable brands selling eco-friendly paper products are shooting up.
Let’s dive into the details of how this grass is taking root in the paper industry landscape.
The papermaking evolution speaks Chinese
Traditionally, paper is made through pulping of virgin wood. This process fuels deforestation, which means losing an inestimable carbon sequestration potential. That’s clearly neither climate-friendly nor sustainable.
However, tree-free paper like bamboo is rapidly taking over.
Not surprisingly, China is leading the way, with southwest Sichuan Province churning out 10% of the country's household bamboo paper products like toilet paper, paper towels, etc.
Overall, the Chinese bamboo pulp production increased over the last years, reaching 2,4 million tons in 2017. And 80% of it is used for household paper grades. Also, local governments are trying to boost bamboo pulping by encouraging new plantations, improving transportation and upgrading milling infrastructures.
And bamboo paper manufacturers are becoming even more creative.
A Chinese brand came up with a colourful marketing strategy to increase their sales while reducing the bamboo papermaking costs.
They’re upcycling Panda poop into bamboo tissue paper.
While it sounds gross, it has some grass. That’s because the animals' faeces, dubbed as green balls, are rich in undigested bamboo.
But don’t you worry. They’re sterilizing the waste during the recycling process, so their products are absolutely safe to use.
Over the last decade, China-based big paper manufacturers have been hopping on the bamboo bandwagon. Catching the consumer-driven sustainability wave, they have been investing in modern equipment to increase their bamboo products output. Just like the Taison Group, which made half a million tonnes of bamboo tissue in 2020.
So, how is this affecting Western countries paper market?
Pushed by the panic buying during pandemic, Chinese bamboo paper products appeared for the first time on the shelves of American retail outlets. However, most of tree-free paper goods are still mostly sold online by ecommerce, which are on the rise.
When looking at toilet paper, large corporates still cover 80% of the US market with their trees-based rolls.
Yet, the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) has flushed them out. When assessing the sustainability of their paper manufacture, they assigned them the lowest score.
Because they’re wiping out the Canadian boreal forest.
Nonetheless, despite their greenflushing tactics, people no longer trust them and are turning the paper page on tree-greedy alternatives.
Over the past 5 years, products like bamboo toilet papers garnered the attention of consumers compared to the wood-based option. And that’s not a surprise considering that 85% of the global population have adopted more sustainable purchasing habits.
Plus, over a third of them is happy to pay a premium to buy eco-friendly products like bamboo paper. This trend is mainly driven by Generation Z and Millennials.
But why are people changing their mind?
The bamboo’s white paper is the greenest
Bamboo’s sustainability is the main driver for shoppers’ paper shift.
But let’s unroll some facts & figures.
Being the fastest growing plant on the planet, this grass will reach maturity in 7 years the latest. Just to give you a sense of scale, trees take more than 4 times longer to become mature. Plus, once reached maturity, bamboo regenerates itself after being cut so you can harvest it once a year.
To add to that, bamboo is easy-peasy. Flourishing in a wide range of climates and even in depleted soil, this plant doesn’t ask for any fertilizers and drinks 30% less water than trees. Not to mention bamboo absorbs 5 times more carbon from the atmosphere and requires much less land to grow than trees.
Based on that, you may not be surprised to know that the production of bamboo fibres emits 30% less CO2 compared to virgin tree-based fibres.
And it’s even better than recycled paper. Besides being available in limited amount, recycled paper contains bisphenol-A (BPA). This nasty chemical contaminates water and could trigger hormone disorder in humans when getting in touch with it.
On the other hand, bamboo is a renewable source and it’s easy to cultivate. On top of that, its processing doesn’t introduce any BPA into the final product. That’s why you’ll end up with a way more eco-friendly paper compared to the recycled paper peer.
Also, when opting for 100% biodegradable bamboo paper, you won’t be responsible for leaving any residual pollutants in the environment. More importantly, less paper waste will end up in landfills, thus preventing the emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas over 30 times more impactful than CO2.
This sustainable white paper shows how bamboo is the greenest feedstock you can use for making household paper products.
And not only that.
The bamboo effect is also affecting the packaging sector. Because of the challenges with recycling, alternative sources for paper packaging like bamboo are sprouting up. These account for about 10% of the total packaging market.
For instance, Sony has designed a plastic-free recyclable bamboo-containing material to case their last headphones model.
But you can use bamboo paper towels to wrap your sandwiches and snacks as well. Using this eco-friendly paper, you’ll get rid of unsafe and polluting materials like foil and plastic film.
As you can see, the bamboo revolution is undergoing.
And its momentum will keep growing in the near future.
Future Market Insights (FMI) estimated the global bamboo market to reach a value of US$ 12 Bn in 2029. This outstanding demand will be mostly caused by pulp & paper production.
The end of tree-greedy paper is coming.