Counting the ways with bamboo

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With more than ten thousand different uses, bamboo is versatile, renewable, clean, green and abundant. What’s more, it holds the key to many climate change and sustainable development solutions. What’s not to love? ISO’s expert committee for bamboo has just published its first International Standard to support the industry’s growth, contributing to a better world for all.

Strong, practical, renewable and nutritious, bamboo is one of our world’s most useful resources, yet most of its potential remains grossly untapped. Dating back to the Han dynasty of ancient China over two thousand years ago, its use has gone from making paper and treating diseases to the thousands of everyday items we see around us today.

Offering outstanding physical and mechanical properties, it can be used to make bedding, flooring, construction and building materials, furniture, kitchenware, musical instruments… and more. In doing so, it also creates employment and sustains livelihoods in many developing countries. To top it off, bamboo plants emit more oxygen and absorb more carbon dioxide than many other plants, making them some of the most effective tools against climate change.

A Vietnamese worker pounds freshly cut bamboo chopsticks in chopstick factory, in Vietnam.

Vietnamese worker pounds freshly cut chopsticks.

Recognizing the need to support the growth of the bamboo industry, ISO’s dedicated expert committee has just published its first International Standard, with many others in the pipeline. ISO 21625, Vocabulary related to bamboo and bamboo products, outlines the internationally agreed and recognized terms and definitions in the industry, providing an essential baseline for greater understanding and cooperation.

Karnita Yuniarti, Convenor of the group of experts that developed ISO 21625, said the standard is an essential foundation for the industry, providing a platform from which it can most effectively grow.

“Bamboo is a valuable resource in achieving many of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, including alleviating poverty, providing clean and affordable energy, responsible production and more,” she said.

“International Standards support its use more widely, as they put the whole world on the same page and provide agreed guidance that fosters collaboration and trade. By providing a common language that everyone can understand, ISO 21625 is the vital first step from which future standards can be developed.”

The group’s Project Leader, Xianmiao Liu, said 1 642 bamboo species – of which 1 521 are woody bamboos – are naturally distributed in tropical and warm temperate areas across the globe.

“This and future standards for bamboo will play a key role in regulating the global bamboo market and create an international bamboo standards system. It will also contribute to the more efficient use of bamboo resources and the mitigation of the effects of climate change.”

Future standards will cover bamboo floorings, bamboo charcoal and rattan.

ISO 21625 was developed by ISO technical committee ISO/TC 296, Bamboo and rattan, the secretariat of which is held by SAC, ISO’s member for China. It can be purchased from your national ISO member or the ISO Store.

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