Must bamboo products be natural?
CHINA – Media OutReach – 14 May 2020 – “Circular economy” has become a buzzwords for development now! In a nutshell, circular economy is about “how not to make waste.” Consumers have become cautious in reducing the use of disposable items such as disposable coffee cups, disposable tableware, and so on. They are eager and willing to accept new environmentally friendly products. There are more and more “bamboo coffee cups” and “bamboo tableware” on the market. They often claim to be made of natural materials and can be decomposed after disposal. But are these bamboo coffee cups and tableware really safe and environmentally friendly?
Doubts about safety of bamboo melamine tableware
This type of bamboo coffee cup and tableware is formed by melamine -formaldehyde resin reinforced with bamboo fibres, also known as “bamboo-melamine”. The melamine part maintain the shape and stability of cups and tableware, while the added bamboo fiber will provide the material an attractive natural bamboo look.
According to the German consumer organization Stiftung Warentest, the use of bamboo melamine cups containing hot coffee or tea released melamine substances on all tested samples. The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) found that using a bamboo melamine cup containing a 70 °C hot drink releases more harmful substances than a traditional melamine resin cup, and BfR estimates that continuing to use bamboo melamine cups repeatedly in a prolonged period of time will cause serious harm to health. Among the notified cases recorded in the European Union (EU) by Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF), 37 cases since 2019 have been related to the release of excessive formaldehyde and melamine from bamboo-related food contact products.
Food contact product safety experts at TUV Rheinland said, “Bamboo melamine releases more formaldehyde and melamine than traditional plastic melamine coffee cups and tableware. The melamine resin is resistant to temperatures up to about 70 °C. But when the melamine resin is mixed with high percentage of bamboo (up to 50%), it can cause weakening of the structure.
When the bamboo comes in contact with hot food or beverages, it will enlarge its surface and causes the melamine structure to become more porous and permeable. Hot liquid can penetrate into the resin and causing breakdown of the material into substances like melamine and formaldehyde much more easily and these substances end up coming into the foods.” Melamine can cause disorders of the bladder and renal system, and formaldehyde can even cause cancer.
TUV Rheinland recommends that consumers avoid using products such as bamboo melamine coffee cups and tableware for high-temperature beverages or foods. When buying or using tableware, glassware, ceramics or storage containers, consumers should purchase from reputable retailers which products have passed food contact testing to ensure that no harmful substances will be passed into the food.
TUV Rheinland’s laboratories can perform food contact safety testing on food contact products and materials in accordance with German (LFGB), European Union, United States and other countries’or regions’ regulations, non-intentionally added substances (NIAS) ensuring that products are safe and free of restricted harmful substances.
Products such as bamboo melamine coffee cups and tableware are often promoted as environmentally friendly, biodegradable or made from renewable raw materials. Although bamboo itself is a compostable material, if it is added to a melamine resin, it becomes a plastic product as a whole and is not biodegradable. Biodegradable product testing generally examines a product’s compostable materials, intermediates and additives as well as final characteristics and composition. Each of these features must undergo chemical, biodegradability, disintegration and ecotoxicity testing or assessment.
TUV Rheinland’s biodegradation testing laboratory in Greater China is recognized by DIN CERTCO, the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) and the Australian Bioplastics Association (ABA). From the testing of biodegradability to technical support services and certification of the biodegradable products, we aim to provide manufacturers and exporters with comprehensive solutions to speed up their access to global markets and give confidence to users on sustainable products.
About TUV Rheinland
TUV Rheinland is a global leader in independent inspection services, founded nearly 150 years ago. The group maintains a worldwide presence of more than 20,000 people; annual turnover is EUR 2 billion. Its independent experts stand for quality and safety for people, technology and the environment in nearly all aspects of life.
TUV Rheinland inspects technical equipment, products and services, oversees projects, and helps to shape processes and information security for companies. Its experts train people in a wide range of careers and industries. To this end, TUV Rheinland employs a global network of approved labs, testing and education centers. Since 2006, TUV Rheinland has been a member of the United Nations Global Compact to promote sustainability and combat corruption. Website: www.TUV.com