Bamboo crockery – usually a mixture of several materials
Tableware made of bamboo – whether, in department stores, discounters, organic markets, or online shops, the alternative to conventional plastic tableware has been sprouting up for several years. The name associates: it is made of bamboo and is ecological. You only find out exactly what’s in the tableware at a second glance.
- One hundred percent bamboo fibers, unfortunately, do not work for crockery that is supposed to be food-safe, moisture-resistant, and reusable such as porcelain, glass, conventional plastic, or ceramics.
- In order to obtain a substance suitable for tableware that can withstand similar conditions as conventional plastic materials, further additives are required: melamine resin and formaldehyde, for example.
- According to the manufacturer, the mixing ratio of natural material, which also contains other wood and corn in addition to bamboo, to the plastic MF (melamine-aldehyde condensation resin) is 60:40. The maximum possible proportion of natural fibers is 70 percent.
- Consumer associations criticize this because both melamine and formaldehyde pose health risks.
Health risks from bamboo dishes
The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) examined some samples of bamboo tableware and, in an assessment from November 2019, made it clear how critical daily use, in particular, can be. They assumed that warm dishes such as coffee, tea, hot milk, or porridge are also drunk or eaten from the dishes.
- The release of formaldehyde from around a quarter of the dishes was so high that the limit value for the healthy daily dose (TDI) was exceeded by up to 30 times for adults and up to 120 times for children.
- According to BfR measurements, the melamine load from bamboo fiber tableware is also quite high: about twice as much melamine is released in daily use as is known from conventional melamine-containing tableware (MFH).
- This can pose a risk, especially for children, for whom there are numerous models of this new type of crockery on the market.
- Formaldehyde is considered carcinogenic. Melamine is suspected of being able to damage the kidneys and bladder.
So bamboo fiber remains a healthy alternative
Crockery made from a bamboo-melamine mixture usually has a slightly dull surface. That’s why it’s a popular plastic alternative for kids’ tableware and to-go drinking cups.
- If you use bamboo children’s tableware, only use it for cold dishes.
- If you drink hot beverages like coffee from a bamboo-MF blend mug, you risk consuming a chemical cocktail if the beverage is poured too hot. Be sure to observe the 70-degree Celsius limit.
- The same goes for warm milk or tea. It is better to give your child these from a conventional plastic cup if they are still too small for porcelain and ceramics.
- The BfR reports that exposure to bamboo crockery is particularly critical when it comes into contact with food and is exposed to temperatures above 70 degrees Celsius. This is when a particularly large number of pollutants migrate into the food.
- You should never use bamboo dishes in the microwave. Here, too, formaldehyde and melamine dissolve much more easily and end up in your body.
- You can safely put the plates, mugs, and bowls in the dishwasher. However, it is advisable to choose a gentle temperature for rinsing.
The reaction of suppliers of the bamboo tableware
Due to the generally negative reporting in the media such as Öko-Test and Stiftung Warentest, individual manufacturers have reacted. They emphasize that there are qualitative differences between goods with high product standards compared to cheap goods and consider it important to point out that microwaves and temperatures above 70 degrees are taboo.
- The online shop “bambus crockery”, for example, already reacted in the summer of 2019. It emphasizes the high quality of its crockery, including the high content of 70 percent natural fibers.
- The sustainable internet distributor “Lilli Green” also reported in July 2019 with a detailed explanation and refers to strict tests and certification by its manufacturer EKOBO, which prove the harmlessness of the dishes.
- The rated bamboo melamine cups and plates should not be confused with goods that are actually “exclusively” made of bamboo.
- Such actually pure bamboo materials are available, for example, as tableware for children. You can clearly recognize both by its woody external character.
- However, you then have to hand wash such natural bamboo materials in warm, soapy water. When using with drinks or soup, for example, it is best to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.