Wednesday, 7 April 2021

“Made from bamboo sawdust waste…from a chopstick factory!”

The early semi-synthetic plastics utilised natural, plant-based materials that then had chemicals added to them in order to change or improve their specific properties. Development soon introduced the first completely synthetic plastics, man-made by reacting chemicals in the laboratory that were derived from fossil fuels. These types of plastics proliferated throughout the twentieth century but, with widespread concern over dwindling resources, in recent years there has been renewed interest in turning full-circle and substituting oil-based plastics with alternative, more sustainable plant-based feedstocks.

One such example is bamboo, a fast-growing grass that, due to its deep root systems, does not die when cut and as such is considered a renewable resource. Where plastics are concerned, it can be used in its virgin form alongside other materials, as a strengthening fibre within composites, or as a powder derived from waste off-cuts that are ground up and combined with biodegradable resins. 

This week’s guest blog post was written by MoDiP’s Digital Communications Officer, Julia Pulman, who sadly left AUB for pastures new just before Christmas. Here, she fondly remembers engaging with schools on the topic of bamboo plastics.

I have many happy memories of talking to hundreds of schoolchildren when we introduced the Eco-plastic Detectives project, supported by the Cultural Hub and aimed to encourage primary-age pupils to learn about sustainability in plastics. Part of the sessions involved handling environmentally friendly plastics objects and the beach toys were always a firm favourite. Made of bamboo sawdust waste from a chopstick factory (I can’t remember how many times I have said that phrase!), the shapes of these lovely objects were inspired by sea creatures and always reminded me just how clever designs using eco-plastics can be.

So, I am sure you can imagine how delighted I was to be given a Bamboo Bowl & Colander Set made from eco-friendly Biobu®, as a leaving gift from the MoDiP team when I said goodbye after two happy and enjoyable years at the museum. 

Image ref: My bamboo set from Ekobo.
Image credit: Julia Pulman

It has become my new favourite piece of kitchenalia and in a cheery red colour, it just brings a smile to my face every time I use it. The colander has plenty of well-apportioned drainage holes and four moulded feet to allow it to stand independently, whilst the bowl has a wide, curved spout which doubles up as a handle, to keep things steady when mixing. If the two pieces are used together, any water you have used to wash food in the colander drains through and is captured by the bowl. The spout of the handle then allows for easy re-use, eg. in watering plants.

Image ref: Washing lettuce - then watering my plant.

Image credit: Julia Pulman

I have used my set at Christmas, draining the veg, for mixing the pancake batter on Shrove Tuesday - the pouring spout was especially useful here – and for making Nigella’s delicious Olive Oil (and Maple Syrup) granola during lockdown…yum!

Image ref: The set in regular use.
Image credit: Julia Pulman

It is such a gorgeous product to handle; perfectly moulded with a smooth, rounded finish that is so pleasingly tactile. I think I might also be able to utilise it in my role with Knoll Gardens when talking about our bamboo plants. I can almost hear myself now… “Did you know you can use bamboo to make sustainable plastics?”

Image ref: 'Merlin’ bamboo along the Dragon walk.

Image credit: Knoll Gardens

Julia Pulman

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