A US-based company that develops commercial bamboo plantations to provide raw materials that can be converted into textile fibres, is to invest in the development of more sustainable pulping facilities. 

The move by EcoPlanet Bamboo Group will help offer a more sustainable option for clothing brands seeking alternatives to ancient and endangered forest fibres.

It has also been welcomed by environmental group Canopy, which has been partnering with clothing brands to end the use of ancient and endangered forests in rayon and viscose textiles. The group has also been assessing the potential of bamboo and other fibres as low footprint alternatives.

A recent Kimberly Clark Life Cycle Analysis revealed that bamboo grown on degraded agricultural and forest lands  managed under Forest Stewardship Council criteria can have a lower ecological impact than fibre from the Boreal forests.

"We are excited about EcoPlanet Bamboo's interest in innovation, and the opportunities for the clean manufacturing of sustainably grown bamboo as an alternative to rayon or viscose made from ancient and endangered forests," said Nicole Rycroft, executive director of Canopy.

Whether derived from tree fibre or bamboo, dissolving pulp is a chemically-intensive and inefficient process, and EcoPlanet Bamboo's research is expected to help provide a more efficient and cleaner alternative to existing pulping methods.

Similar to any productive crop, bamboo can be grown sustainably or unsustainably. Canopy and EcoPlanet Bamboo's policy agreement is based around an understanding that bamboo should not be industrialised under the context of conversion of natural forest ecosystems to bamboo plantations.

"EcoPlanet Bamboo is committed to investing in the development of a new generation pulping facility to address current issues along the supply chain, from feedstock sourcing through to the first stages of manufacturing," said Troy Wiseman, CEO of EcoPlanet Bamboo.

Between 70m and 100m trees are felled every year to produce textiles with around 30% originating from ancient and endangered forests. 

Fashion companies including H&M and Inditex, as well as Loomstate, Eileen Fisher and Quiksilver have pledged to eliminate rayon and viscose fabrics derived from ancient and endangered forests within three years.