Sustainable Textiles: the Role of Bamboo and a Comparison of Bamboo Textile Properties-Part 2

Marilyn Waite


This paper delves into a subset of engineering for sustainable development—the engineering of sustainable textiles using bamboo. In particular, the document explores various questions relating to the subject, including: (1) what constitute sustainable textiles? and (2) what role can bamboo textiles play in sustainable development? The experiments performed attempt to answer two main questions: (1) what are the differences in textile properties between chemically-manufactured and mechanically-manufactured bamboo textiles? and (2) what are the differences in textile properties between two different species of bamboo (Phyllostachys edulis and Bambusa emeiensis)?

We can look at the textile industry through the lens of the triple bottom line of sustainability. At present, the industry has a poor track record for social and environmental concerns. The two most commonly used textile fibres—cotton and polyester—both cause serious environmental problems in their life cycle. This document focuses on one small aspect of the entire field of sustainable textiles—materials made from bio-based renewable resources in the form of bamboo species. The advantages of bamboo as a raw material include its fast renewability, its biodegradability, its efficient space consumption, its low water use, and its organic status. The advantages of bamboo fabric are its very soft feel (chemically-manufactured) or ramie-like feel (mechanically-manufactured), its antimicrobial properties, its moisture wicking capabilities and its anti-static nature. The main constraints of bamboo textiles are current costs and are those inherent in the textile industry: energy, water, and chemical requirements that are involved in manufacturing.

The textile properties examined relate to sustainability: wear and tear (and therefore durability) and moisture wicking (and therefore the need for machine washing and drying). The following are measured for fibre, yarn, and fabric: tear force, breaking force, breaking tenacity, moisture absorption and speed of drying, and surface morphology.

The work is divided into two parts. Part 1 addresses bamboo textiles in the context of sustainable development, providing a historical perspective, sustainable development framework, pertinent information about bamboo as a plant, and the various manufacturing processes, advantages, and constraints of the bamboo textile industry. Part 2 addresses the experimental component with a discussion of limitations, challenges, a system dynamics view of sustainable bamboo textiles, and final recommendations for sustainability within the textile industry.

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