China’s National Development and Reform Commission and four other departments recently announced a “Three-Year Action Plan for Accelerating the Development of Bamboo Substitutes” in order to accelerate the “substitution of bamboo for plastic” (以竹代塑), and establish a “bamboo plastic” industry by 2025.
Bamboo has long been used as a construction material in China: more than 2,000 years ago, the Dujiangyan Riverbank was protected from erosion by “stone rafts” (woven bamboo baskets piled with stones) that were used to fortify the embankment. During the Later Han Dynasty (25-220), pipes made of bamboo were used to irrigate farmland, and in the 1950s they were applied to many projects, including construction and transportation. Located at the western foot of Wuyi Mountain, Shixi is the main production area of mohwa bamboo in China.
Bamboo has three points for environmental protection:
1) it is renewable and grows quickly,
2) it is degradable and does not produce pollution or waste, and
3) its carbon fixing capacity is better than that of common wood. The carbon fixing capacity of bamboo forests is 1.46 times that of cedar forests and 1.33 times that of tropical rainforests.
Seven of the 17 goals of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are related to bamboo, including “End Poverty,” “Make Energy Clean for All,” “Responsibility to Create, Responsibility to Produce,” “Take Concrete Action on Climate Change,” and “Protect Land Affluence.
According to statistics, there are about 10,000 varieties of bamboo products in China, with a wide variety of uses; the industry size in 2022 is 415.3 billion yuan (1 yuan = about 21 yen), and both the number of patents granted and the number of papers published in the bamboo field in China account for more than 80% of the world total. Taking Jiangxi Province as an example, the bamboo forest area in the province is 1,177,000 hectares, and there are more than 1,400 bamboo processing enterprises.
According to Yu Wenji, Chief Scientist of the Chinese Academy of Forestry Science and Director of the National Bamboo Industry Research Institute, China’s bamboo industry leads the world in scale and level, and has formed a relatively well-developed industrial system. However, China lacks a leading company that is globally competitive and takes the lead in the industry. There are only about 100 large enterprises with annual output exceeding 100 million yuan, and the largest enterprises have output of about 1 billion yuan. The overwhelming majority are small and micro enterprises and lack major brands.
On November 7, the Chinese government and the International Network for Bamboo Network (INBAR) announced a Global Action Plan for Plastic to Bamboo Replacement (2023-2030).