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Filipino Scientists Develop Greener Bamboo Textiles

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In photo, from left: Kawayan Tinik (Bambusa blumeana) culms and Pretreated Bamboo Textile Fiber (Photo courtesy of DOST-PTRI)

After successfully launching the Philippines’ first-ever indigenous fabrics from bamboo last year, the Department of Science and Technology team through its Philippine Textile Research Institute PTRI, go further by developing greener Bamboo textile materials in line with their thrust on sustainable technologies.

The DOST-PTRI Bamboo fiber extraction technology, already applied for intellectual property protection with the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPhil), was first developed in 2015. It includes the mechanical, chemical, and biological processes to liberate the fibers from the bamboo culm.  The extracted bamboo textile fiber is treated to obtain highly cellulosic textile fibers while preserving the inherent properties of bamboo such as antimicrobial and UV-blocking properties. The technology, applied to natural extraction of different Bamboo species in the Philippines such as Kawayan Tinik (Bambusa blumeana), Bolo (Gigantochloa levis), Yellow Bamboo (Bambusa vulgaris), and Giant Bamboo (Dendrocalamus asper), produces strong and fine Bamboo fibers. Considerably mild and eco-friendly technology coupled with the simplicity of the extraction and treatment technique makes it highly suitable for textile fiber processing in remote Bamboo-rich local areas leading to economic gains for the Bamboo textile industry.

A more popular commercial process of converting bamboo into textile material is through cellulose regeneration. In this process, bamboo culms are broken down into chips, dissolved, and extruded through spinnerets to produce fine staples or filaments. In this synthetic technique, new fiber properties are introduced while the natural integrity of the Bamboo textile fibers is not conserved. Also, the toxic and hazardous substances involved in the production of regenerated Bamboo viscose fibers implicate the environmental downside of the process.

To promote the increased utilization of natural textile fiber processing from Bamboo, the DOST-PTRI has moved towards sustainable and improved fiber extraction techniques for the Bamboo species currently under study: Laak (Bambusa philippinensis), Anos (Schizostachyum lima (Blanco) merr.), and Puser (Cyrtocholoa puser s. dransf.). The greener and milder conditions in the transformation of Bamboo culms into natural textile materials promote an ecological and community-centered approach. This puts the initiative squarely on Bamboo farmers, farm owners, and textile fiber producers and ensures that the socio-economic and environmental benefits of the bamboo textile fiber technology redound to the direct benefit of the many bamboo-rich rural communities.

This year, the Technical Working Group (TWG) of Republic Act 9242 or the Act Prescribing the Use of the Philippine Tropical Fabrics for Uniforms of Public Officials and Employees and for other Purpose, has included in the proposed revised Implementing Rules and Regulation (IRR), the inclusion of other natural textile fibers which include bamboo, to help widen the scope of textile fiber sources and promote employment generation in the countryside. This market represents 635,000 kg of treated bamboo fiber input material for the production of spun yarns that will meet just 25% of the requirements for government uniforms. This represents a huge potential and market opportunity for bamboo producers in the country.

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