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Natural Home Kitchenware: Truly Formaldehyde-Free

2/2/2011 3:50:57 PM

Tags: Natural Home kitchenware, bamboo, bamboo kitchen tools, bamboo processing, formaldehyde-free bamboo, Robyn Griggs Lawrence

Two years ago, Natural Home magazine launched the Natural Home kitchenware line. As the leading authority on green living, we knew our products would have to stand head and shoulder above the rest in terms of beauty, durability and environmental impact. We chose bamboo as the best green material, knowing that we’d have to leap a few hurdles. Bamboo has become a favorite among environmentally conscious consumers because it’s a fast-growing grass that can reach maturity in three years and is among the earth’s most water-efficient plants. It’s a smart alternative to hardwood, but processing bamboo can introduce unwanted additives such as formaldehyde and solvent-heavy lacquers. Determined to know that our product line is clean and healthy, last month we sent our representatives to the Chinese factory that processes our bamboo. 

When it’s harvested, our bamboo’s outside layer is stripped away, using a machine very similar to a vegetable peeler (but much larger) and saved for future use. Next, the interior bamboo pieces are cut into long strips and submerged in a steam bath to deepen the color and free the bamboo of contaminants such as natural funguses and pests. The bamboo is allowed to dry and harden before it returns to the steam bath for a second round.  This time, it undergoes a slight color change, depending on the length of time it spends in the second steam chamber. Unlike the colored veneers applied to hardwood, which can be sanded off the top layer with minimal effort, carbonized bamboo maintains its color consistency throughout. 

To make our tools, factory workers press together bamboo pieces using high-pressure compression machines and a small amount of resin, which contains none of the harmful compounds currently allowed under U.S. Food and Drug Administration standards. The FDA allows a small amount of formaldehyde (6 parts per million) in processed bamboo, but Natural Home’s editors just said no. We’ve developed a process that maintains the bamboo’s structural integrity without using any formaldehyde. Natural Home products contain no veneer or lacquer; they’re finished with a natural food-grade oil that gives them their soft, deep color.

Leftover byproduct from the manufacture of our products will soon be used to make molded bamboo products. In a process currently being perfected by our development team, we’re turning bamboo sawdust into a strong, pliable plastic alternative that could reduce demand for petroleum-based plastics. Once this process is in place, our process will be zero-waste, without any byproducts for disposal. 

Natural Home bamboo kitchen tools are formaldehyde-free.bamboo spoons 

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