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Bamboo instead of plastic – a new trend of green development of food packaging

International Bamboo and Rattan Organization recently released the “2021 China Bamboo and Rattan Commodity International Trade Report” (hereinafter referred to as “the report”) shows that in 2021, China’s total import and export trade of bamboo and rattan products amounted to 2.781 billion U.S. dollars. Among them, the total export trade amounted to about 2.755 billion U.S. dollars, the total import trade amounted to about 0.026 billion U.S. dollars; the total import and export trade amounted to 2.645 billion U.S. dollars for bamboo products, the total export amounted to 1.663 billion U.S. dollars for “bamboo instead of plastic” products, which accounted for 60.36% of the total product exports; the total import amounted to 5.4255 million U.S. dollars, which accounted for Total imports amounted to 5.4255 million dollars, accounting for 20.87% of the total product imports. In terms of product exports, bamboo tableware export growth is the most obvious, bamboo shoots and bamboo food export trade overall fluctuating trend.

Bamboo tableware export growth rate is obvious

China is one of the countries with the richest bamboo resources in the world, with 44 genera and 857 species of bamboo plants. According to the results of the ninth forest resources census, China’s bamboo forests cover an area of 6.41 million hectares, with bamboo species, area and production ranking first in the world. China is also the earliest country in the world to recognize and utilize bamboo, with a long history of bamboo culture, bamboo industry linking primary, secondary and tertiary industries, and bamboo products of high value and wide range of uses, with more than 100 series of nearly 10,000 kinds of products already formed, which are used in many fields such as food, packaging, transportation and medicine.

According to the Report, over the past 20 years, China’s bamboo industry has been developing rapidly, with an increasing variety of products and applications. From the international market, China occupies a pivotal position in the international trade of bamboo products, and is the world’s leading producer, consumer and exporter of bamboo products, as well as a major importer of bamboo products. 2021, China’s import and export trade of bamboo and rattan commodities amounted to 2.781 billion U.S. dollars, of which the total export trade of bamboo and rattan commodities amounted to 2.755 billion U.S. dollars, the total import trade of bamboo and rattan commodities amounted to 26 billion U.S. dollars, and the total export trade of bamboo products amounted to 2.785 billion U.S. dollars. billion dollars, the total import and export trade of bamboo products is 2.653 billion dollars, and the total import and export trade of rattan products is 128 million dollars. The total export trade of bamboo products is 2.645 billion dollars and the total import trade is 8.12 million dollars.

The overall growth trend of China’s export trade amount of bamboo products from 2011 to 2021. in 2011, China’s export trade amount of bamboo products was 1.501 billion dollars, and in 2021 it will be 2.645 billion dollars, an increase of 176.22%, with a growth rate of 17.62% per year. Affected by the global new crown epidemic, China’s bamboo products export trade volume growth slows down in 2019-2020, with growth rates of 0.52% and 3.10% in 2019 and 2020, respectively.China’s bamboo products export trade growth picks up in 2021, with a growth rate of 20.34%.

From 2011 to 2021, China’s total export trade of bamboo tableware grows significantly, from 380 million U.S. dollars in 2011 to 1.14 billion U.S. dollars in 2021, and the proportion of the total export trade of bamboo products accounted for by China grows from 25% in 2011 to 43% in 2021; the total export trade of bamboo and bamboo shoots and bamboo food products before 2017 grows steadily and peaks in 2016, with total exports amounting to US$240 million in 2011, US$320 million in 2016, dropping to US$230 million in 2020, and rebounding to US$240 million in 2021, and accounting for a share of China’s total export trade in bamboo products that peaks at about 18% in 2016 and drops to 9% in 2021.

China’s import trade of bamboo products showed an overall fluctuating trend from 2011 to 2021.In 2011, China’s import trade of bamboo products amounted to USD 120.8 million, and USD 8.12 million in 2021.From 2011 to 2017, China’s import trade of bamboo products showed a decreasing trend, and in 2017, the import trade had a larger increase which was 352.46%.

The Report analyzes that in recent years, China’s export trade of bamboo products has had a low annual growth rate, and with the demand for green products in both domestic and international markets, there is an urgent need to find new growth points to stimulate the export of bamboo products. Compared with China’s export trade of bamboo products, China’s import trade of bamboo products is not large. China’s bamboo products trade products are mainly bamboo tableware and bamboo products, China’s bamboo products import and export trade is mainly concentrated in the developed southeast coastal areas, bamboo resources are more rich in Sichuan Province, Anhui Province and other provinces to participate in the trade is less.

“Bamboo instead of plastic” products are increasingly diversified

On June 24, 2022, Chinese authorities and the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) jointly launched the “Bamboo instead of Plastic” initiative to reduce plastic pollution and combat climate change. Plastic products are used in China on a large scale, which puts great pressure on environmental protection. In 2019 alone, China’s annual consumption of plastic straws was nearly 30,000 tons, or about 46 billion straws, with an annual per capita use of more than 30 straws.Between 2014 and 2019, China’s disposable fast-food containers market grew from 3.56 billion yuan to 9.63 billion yuan, with an average annual growth rate of 21.8%.In 2020, China’s disposable lunchboxes will consume about 44.5 billion units In 2020, China’s consumption of disposable food containers will be about 44.5 billion.

Data from the State Post Bureau shows that China’s express delivery industry produces about 1.8 million tons of plastic waste annually. With the progress of science and technology, the application of bamboo began to industrial production in many areas of penetration, some domestic enterprises have begun to produce “bamboo instead of plastic” products, such as bamboo fiber towels, bamboo fiber masks, bamboo toothbrushes, bamboo paper towels and other household items, bamboo straws, bamboo ice cream sticks, bamboo plates, disposable bamboo lunch boxes and other catering supplies. Bamboo products are quietly entering people’s daily life in a new form.

The Report shows that according to China Customs statistics, the total export of “bamboo instead of plastic” products amounted to 1.663 billion U.S. dollars, accounting for 60.36% of the total product exports. Among them, the most exported products for the bamboo round stick, round stick, the export amount of 369 million U.S. dollars, accounting for 22.2% of the total exports of “bamboo instead of plastic” products. Followed by disposable bamboo chopsticks and other bamboo tableware, the total export amount was USD 292 million and USD 289 million respectively, accounting for 17.54% and 17.39% of the total product exports. Bamboo daily necessities, bamboo cutting boards and bamboo baskets accounted for more than 10% of the export, while the rest of the products exported less.

According to the statistics of China Customs, the total import of “bamboo instead of plastic” products is 5.43 million US dollars, accounting for 20.87% of the import of bamboo and rattan commodities. Among them, the most imported products for bamboo baskets and rattan baskets, the import amount of $ 1.63 million and $ 1.57 million, respectively, accounting for “bamboo instead of plastic” total imports of 30.04% and 28.94%. Followed by other bamboo tableware and other bamboo chopsticks, total imports of $0.92 million and $0.6 million, accounting for 17% and 11.06% of total product exports.

According to the Report, at present, “bamboo instead of plastic” products are widely used in daily necessities. Emerging products bamboo straws with its “anti-scald, durable and not easy to soft, simple process and low cost”, is expected to replace paper straws and polylactic acid (PLA) biodegradable straws. Disposable bamboo fiber tableware products have been put on the market and exported to Europe and the United States market.

Disposable tableware raw materials can also be used to make tableware using micro-thin bamboo and bamboo strips, such as plates, cups, knives, forks, spoons and so on. With the rapid development of logistics, bamboo packaging types increase, mainly including bamboo woven packaging and so on. Unlike traditional petrochemical-based plastics, bamboo-derived bio-based degradable plastics can effectively replace the market demand for plastics.

The carbon sequestration capacity of bamboo forests far exceeds that of ordinary forests, making them important carbon sinks. Bamboo products maintain a low or even zero carbon footprint throughout the entire product lifecycle, which contributes to mitigating climate change and plays an important role in realizing the goal of carbon neutrality. Some bamboo products can replace plastic to meet people’s needs as well as fulfill green requirements. However, most bamboo products are still in their infancy, and their market share and recognition need to be improved.

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