How long does bamboo cutlery last?
Over the last few years, bamboo has acquired near “cult” status in the world of eco-products! It’s durability, versatility and quick growth has led to it being used to create everything from toilet paper to sunglasses (and even bamboo computers)!
But are bamboo utensils durable? Can you reuse bamboo flatware? And finally, how long does bamboo cutlery last?
Why is bamboo so popular?
Bamboo has climbed its way to fame in recent years as a biodegradable, organic and natural replacement for simple plastic household items. It’s been used to replace all manner of products and savvy innovators continue to reshape and repurpose bamboo to be used in new and interesting ways!
But how did bamboo get so gosh darn popular in the first place?
The truth is that although bamboo may have skirted under the radar in Western countries, it’s been a superstar material in Asia for centuries, its origins dating back over 7,000 years in China.
In Asia, bamboo has long been heralded as an important material used in the construction industry. Additionally, in the past it was commonly used to create books and if you hit the street markets in Vietnam or Thailand, you may even find local people eating a dish called “baby bamboo” which is fried up using the stalks of adolescent bamboo plants!
Adding to this, mature bamboo is used as a pipe, primarily in Northern Vietnam and long before us Westerners thought to replace single-use plastic goods with bamboo, Asians were using bamboo flutes as straws!
So it’s little wonder that after centuries of use in Asia, bamboo has finally gained the respect and admiration it deserves in Europe and the US! Bamboo just needed it’s moment, and once people realised it could be repurposed to replace single-use plastics, the craze took off just as quickly as bamboo itself (which is the world’s fastest growing plant by the way!)
Now that we know a little bit about how bamboo is linked to Asian culture and we can name some of the weird and wonderful ways that bamboo is used to create products, let’s analyse how long a bamboo cutlery set will last!
How long does bamboo flatware last?
Bamboo cutlery comes in all shapes and sizes, from single-use bamboo cutlery to reusable bamboo cutlery, so let’s break the question down into 3 distinct sections!
How long does single-use bamboo cutlery last?
Bamboo cutlery sets can be sold singularly or in multi-packs. Typically, multipacks of bamboo cutlery are designed for single-use. These types of bamboo cutlery packs are machine-made, extremely thin and easily broken.
That’s not to say that they do not have utility!
Single-use bamboo cutlery is perfect for events such as weddings, festivals and corporate dinners where reusable cutlery may be deemed as too expensive. They are designed specifically to be thrown out after one use and although this is rather wasteful, it’s a lot better than what most events do now (plastic disposable cutlery)!
If you are on the lookout for bamboo cutlery for events, try to find biodegradable and organic disposable bamboo utensils, which will ensure that wherever your guests throw their knives and forks after use, the Earth will eventually eat them up without too many problems being caused!
How long do factory made bamboo cutlery sets last?
“Reusable” bamboo cutlery sets made in industrial factories tend to use industrially grown bamboo, farmed using cheap labour and chemicals. Many ethical companies reselling these sets around the world do not see the conditions that the farmers work in and are unable to check whether the methods used to grow the bamboo are organic or planet-friendly!
To increase profits, thesereusable cutlery sets are cut using the thinnest slivers of bamboo deemed acceptable by factory owners, thus decreasing their durability and ultimately meaning that consumers have to re-purchase sets after a short amount of time.
If you ask us, this isexactly the opposite of what the zero waste movement is trying to accomplish!
However, in defence of factory-made bamboo cutlery sets, they are without a doubt more eco-friendly and sustainable than plastic disposable cutlery sets or bamboo disposable cutlery sets!
Even if the user only manages to get 20-30 uses out of their cutlery set, then they have still reduced their total waste significantly!
How long do they last: In our experience, around 2-3 months or 60-90 uses.
If you’re planning on buying a factory-made bamboo cutlery set, be sure to ask the manufacturers if they coat their sets with melamine. Melamine is commonly used to coat bamboo cutlery sets made in Chinese factories. It is a type of plastic and is considered unsafe for food-contact (and now banned as a coating in the EU).
Not only is melamine considered unsafe, but as it is a type of plastic, it also renders the cutlery itself non-biodegradable, meaning that your “sustainable cutlery” may as well be made entirely from plastic.
Oftentimes, the brand selling bamboo cutlery sets will not know if their cutlery does or does not contain melamine. The simplest way to check is to ask to see their LFGB or SGS certifications which will show what materials are used in the manufacturing stage of a product.
How long do handmade bamboo cutlery sets last?
Handmade bamboo cutlery sets are carved by skilled artisans in Thanh Hoa, Vietnam. The bamboo used to make these sets is thick, ethically-farmed and expertly crafted!
The unique and mountainous topography in Vietnam, means that bamboo can grow unassisted atop the sprawling rice paddies and mountain ranges, ready to be harvested sparingly by local farmers (and without the need for chemicals).
Average rainfall in Thanh Hoa is more than 3x stereotypically rainy London, which provides an insight into how bamboo can grow so plentifully without the need for much human assistance.
For more information on how artisans in rural Vietnam make handmade bamboo cutlery, check out our ethical sourcing article!
Handmade Bamboo cutlery sets lastmore than 2 years if they are made using high-quality bamboo by skilled craftspeople. In order to help you extend the lifespan of your bamboo cutlery we have also written this useful bamboo cutlery care guide!
So, now that we know how long each type of bamboo cutlery lasts, let’s ask the question, is bamboo cutlery worth it? Does bamboo cutlery cost more?
Luckily for you, here at Jungle Culture we love maths and we’ve undergone a quick cost-benefit analysis for individuals and businesses!
Does bamboo cutlery cost more? (Cost benefit analysis)
Let’s start by looking at a few examples where reusable bamboo cutlery sets would really come in handy!
Example 1: A film crew of 350 people is shooting a movie for 3 months
Let’s undertake a cost analysis based on this very probable situation.
Firstly, we’ll assume that every member of the cast and crew eats twice a day during filming. Let’s also assume that the producers have decided to cater for the crew and that for every meal they’ll need some kind of utensil, whether that’s a straw, spoon, knife or fork.
This may not be the case, but you get the idea!
If the film crew were to use plastic disposable cutlery like this set of 100 from Amazon. They would need to buy 3 and a half sets per day, equating to a total of 315 sets by the end of filming.
The above set from Amazon costs £13.99/per 100. Which would mean that by the end of filming the producers have added 31,500 pieces of additional plastic into our world and spent a total of£4,406.85 doing so.
If the same film crew were to use disposable bamboo cutlery like this set. (£13.37/per 100)
The total cost would be£4,211.55
However, if they were to use reusable bamboo cutlery sets, sold for £7.99 then the total cost would be£2,796.50.Significantly less than the disposable cutlery, with absolutely none of the waste.
As an added bonus, each crew member would be able to take a set of cutlery home, helping them to reduce waste after filming!
Disposable plastic cutlery: £4,406.85
Disposable bamboo cutlery: £4,211.55
Reusable bamboo cutlery: £2,796.50
Example 2: An average office worker, living in a big city
Now, let’s start by saying that clearly everybody’s eating habits are different! Some people bring food in from home whilst others are lucky enough (or unlucky enough in some cases) to have a work canteen!
For the sake of argument, let’s pretend that the average office worker uses disposable cutlery or disposable straws 5 times a week.
As we’ve mentioned above, a reusable cutlery set can last more than 2 years, but if we round it up to 2 years exactly, then just by switching to a bamboo cutlery set you personally could save 520 pieces of waste!
Whilst saving the environment is admirable, we know that money is important too, so why spend £7.99-£11.49 on a set of reusable cutlery?
Close your eyes and think. In any given 2 year period, how many times have you needed to buy disposable cutlery for a picnic, a day out or just to use around the house. If the answer is 1 or more then you would be saving money by using bamboo cutlery + saving the environment!
Tips & Tricks to extend the lifespan of your bamboo cutlery
Although bamboo cutlery is very easy to take care of, we still have a few tricks up our sleeves to help you (as a proud owner of a bamboo cutlery set) make yours last for longer!
- Do not put your cutlery in the oven, microwave or dishwasher.
- Do not freeze your bamboo cutlery.
- Shallow fry your bamboo cutlery in flaxseed, linseed or virgin coconut oil.
- Do not leave your cutlery to soak for too long after use.
Bamboo cutlery and all wooden utensils and tableware need slightly more care than metal or plastic products. Wooden cutlery definitely does not enjoy heat, so microwaves, ovens and dishwashers are a big no-no!
Likewise, extreme cold can have a negative effect on wood if it carries internal moisture. Normally freezing bamboo would be okay, but we advise not to do it just to be safe!
Shallow frying your bamboo cutlery is actually a cool trick we learned from our farm partners in Vietnam! Shallow frying the bamboo gives it a protective coating which helps to extend its lifespan. Word of caution, do not use vegetable oil or olive oil as these will eventually turn rancid.
Finally, soaking bamboo will only degrade the structure integrity of your cutlery! To help your set last longer, wash it right away or leave it in a dry spot, waiting to be washed!
How to dispose of bamboo cutlery
Disposing of bamboo cutlery can be easy or difficult depending on which set you purchased. If your bamboo cutlery set is organic and biodegradable (like ours), then lucky you! You can follow our guide to recycling bamboo.
If your cutlery is not biodegradable, it may still be recyclable depending on how advanced the recycling facilities are where you live. Check with your local recycling centre and see what they say. Here are a few ways that chemical coated woods can be recycled.
The other option is that you could turn your bamboo cutlery upside down and put some small stickers on them with the names of herbs. Stab them into your garden soil and start a herb garden! Creative and fun!
Can bamboo cutlery be used by businesses?
It’s important to mention that the majority of our bamboo cutlery customers are businesses. Not only can bamboo cutlery be used by businesses, it may also save them some money!
If you think that your business or event may benefit from bamboo cutlery. Contact us via our eco-friendly products wholesale page and we’ll give you a free consultation!
Hopefully now you all know how long different types of bamboo cutlery last, but just in case you forgot, here is a recap:
How long does bamboo cutlery last?
- Single-use bamboo cutlery lasts 1 use
- Factory made bamboo cutlery lasts 2-3 months or 60-90 uses
- Handmade bamboo cutlery lasts 2 years (or more)
If you enjoyed reading about bamboo cutlery, you can purchase a set of reusable cutlery using the code 20ZERO for a 20% discount. You can even complete your wooden kitchen aesthetic with some wooden cups and coconut bowls! Enjoy!
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