Must bamboo products be natural?


KONG, CHINA – Media OutReach – 14
May 2020 – “Circular economy” has become a buzzwords for development
now! In a nutshell, circular economy is about “how not to make
waste.” Consumers have become cautious in reducing the use of disposable
items such as disposable coffee cups, disposable tableware, and so on. They are
eager and willing to accept new environmentally friendly products. There are
more and more “bamboo coffee cups” and “bamboo tableware” on the market. They
often claim to be made of natural materials and can be decomposed after
disposal. But are these bamboo coffee cups and tableware really safe and
environmentally friendly?

Doubts about safety of bamboo melamine tableware

type of bamboo coffee cup and tableware is formed by melamine -formaldehyde
resin reinforced with bamboo fibres, also known as “bamboo-melamine”. The melamine
part maintain the shape and stability of cups and tableware, while the added
bamboo fiber will provide the material an attractive natural bamboo look.

to the German consumer organization Stiftung Warentest, the use of bamboo
melamine cups containing hot coffee or tea released melamine substances on all
tested samples. The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) found
that using a bamboo melamine cup containing a 70 °C hot drink releases more
harmful substances than a traditional melamine resin cup, and BfR estimates
that continuing to use bamboo melamine cups repeatedly in a prolonged period of
time will cause serious harm to health. Among the notified cases recorded in
the European Union (EU) by Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF), 37
cases since 2019 have been related to the release of excessive formaldehyde and
melamine from bamboo-related food contact products.

contact product safety

experts at TUV Rheinland said, “Bamboo
melamine releases more formaldehyde and melamine than traditional plastic melamine
coffee cups and tableware. The melamine resin is resistant to temperatures up
to about 70 °C. But when the melamine resin is mixed with high percentage of bamboo
(up to 50%), it can cause weakening of the structure. When the bamboo comes in
contact with hot food or beverages, it will enlarge its surface and causes the
melamine structure to become more porous and permeable. Hot liquid can
penetrate into the resin and causing breakdown of the material into substances
like melamine and formaldehyde much more easily and these substances end up
coming into the foods.” Melamine can cause disorders of the bladder and renal
system, and formaldehyde can even cause cancer.

Rheinland recommends that consumers avoid using products such as bamboo melamine
coffee cups and tableware for high-temperature beverages or foods. When buying
or using tableware, glassware, ceramics or storage containers, consumers should
purchase from reputable retailers which products have passed food contact
testing to ensure that no harmful substances will be passed into the food. TUV
Rheinland’s laboratories can perform food contact safety
testing on food contact products and materials

in accordance with German (LFGB), European Union, United States and other
countries’or regions’ regulations, non-intentionally
added substances (NIAS)
ensuring that
products are safe and free of restricted harmful substances.


such as bamboo melamine coffee cups and tableware are often promoted as
environmentally friendly, biodegradable or made from renewable raw materials.
Although bamboo itself is a compostable material, if it is added to a melamine
resin, it becomes a plastic product as a whole and is not biodegradable. Biodegradable
product testing generally examines a product’s compostable materials,
intermediates and additives as well as final characteristics and composition.
Each of these features must undergo chemical, biodegradability, disintegration
and ecotoxicity testing or assessment. TUV
Rheinland’s biodegradation testing

laboratory in Greater China is recognized by DIN CERTCO, the Biodegradable
Products Institute (BPI) and the Australian Bioplastics Association (ABA). From
the testing of biodegradability to technical support services and certification
of the biodegradable products, we aim to provide manufacturers and exporters
with comprehensive solutions to speed up their access to global markets and give
confidence to users on sustainable products.

About TUV Rheinland

Rheinland is a global leader in independent inspection services, founded nearly
150 years ago. The group maintains a worldwide presence of more than 20,000
people; annual turnover is EUR 2 billion. Its independent experts stand for
quality and safety for people, technology and the environment in nearly all
aspects of life. TUV Rheinland inspects technical equipment, products and
services, oversees projects, and helps to shape processes and information
security for companies. Its experts train people in a wide range of careers and
industries. To this end, TUV Rheinland employs a global network of approved
labs, testing and education centers. Since 2006, TUV Rheinland has been a
member of the United Nations Global Compact to promote sustainability and combat
corruption. Website: