Bamboo, sustainability and the environment•
Posted on 11 December 2018
Haxnicks and the Environment
We are using bamboo pots and seed trays as a sustainable alternative to plastic. At Haxnicks we care about the environment and the environmental impact of our products. We are keen to do all we can to protect the environment at the same time as bringing new, practical and genuinely useful products to gardeners. For many years Haxnicks has specialised in developing plant protection products that help to avoid the use of chemical pesticides. Pesticides can be harmful to the environment and we hope that this has had some positive effect. We use plastics in many of our products. However, we avoid the production of ‘single-use’ products. We are also continually exploring new technologies to find natural and sustainable alternatives. Our range of Bamboo Pots and Seed Trays are an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional petroleum-based plastic pots. Whilst there are many advantages of using bamboo pots as an alternative, we also need to be aware of any environmental concerns arising from the production of these items as well as the inevitable carbon footprint of production processes and transportation. These bamboo pots are part of a journey toward a more sustainable way to garden and whilst they are not perfect they are better than what came before.
The Current Industry
It is estimated that 500 million plastic plant pots are sold every year. The majority of these end up in landfill or incinerated. Very little is recycled and there are few facilities to do so. production of these petrochemical plastic pots involves a large amount of fossil fuel . Added to this they take around 500 years to decompose. Meaning that every pot that was ever sent to landfill is currently still there.
Sustainability of Bamboo
Much of the bamboo we make our products from is offcuts of the furniture industry so is using up a waste product. Bamboo is the largest member of the grass family. It is the fastest growing woody plant in the world growing up to 35 metres tall. New shoots can reach their full height in just eight to ten weeks. Then reach full maturity in three to five years. The high growth rate of bamboo and the fact that it can grow in diverse climates makes the bamboo plant a sustainable and versatile resource. However, we want to know that our part in the worldwide demand for bamboo does not impact on other native species. We have visited the forests and in the areas where our bamboo grows and have seen no signs of this as yet. Harvesting most crops such as timber leaves the soil bare after harvesting. Being a grass, after each cut bamboo regenerates just like a lawn without the need for replanting. Regular harvesting benefits the health of the plant. Studies have shown that felling canes leads to vigorous re-growth and an increase in the amount of biomass the next year. Bamboo grows very densely. Its clumping nature means a lot grows in a comparatively small area, easing pressure on land use. Average yields for bamboo are around 60 tonnes per hectare whilst for most trees average yields are around 20 tonnes. The extensive root system of bamboo and the fact that it is not uprooted during harvesting means bamboo helps preserve soil and prevent soil erosion. The bamboo plant's root system creates an effective watershed, stitching the soil together along fragile river banks, deforested areas and in places prone to mudslides. Bamboo minimises CO2 and generates up to 35% more oxygen than equivalent stands of trees. One hectare of bamboo sequesters 62 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. While one hectare of young forest only sequesters 15 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.
Bamboo and water
Very little bamboo is irrigated. Bamboo uses water very efficiently which means it is able to handle harsh weather conditions such as the droughts, floods and high temperatures. These conditions may well become more prevalent as a result of global warming. Bamboo grows prolifically without the need for chemical fertilisers and irrigation. It is likely that some bamboo farmers use fertilisers to increase growth. This practice is much less common with bamboo than with most other crops, and we have not seen this in the areas where we work. Our bamboo products come from China, where the bamboo grows. The finished products move by sea to various countries worldwide. Compared to other transport methods like air, sea has a relatively low carbon impact. It is not perfect but it is a step in the right direction away from petrochemical plastic pots. We continue to look at the materials we use and will source locally where practical.
PRC (China) labour law prohibits the employment of children under the age of 16 yrs. However, evidence points to child labour still in certain industries. The US International Labor Affairs Bureau (ILAB) has investigated Child Labour for 25 years and publish a list of known ongoing occurrences worldwide. In China there are lists containing various industries such as cotton, textiles, Fireworks but not bamboo. Burma is the only country where the ILAB list includes bamboo. We have visited various bamboo plantations in the region where we work. We have not seen any use of child labour or poor working conditions.
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