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Bamboo cup manufacturers claim that their products are reusable and environmentally friendly. Stiftung Warentest, a German consumer organization, tested 12 brands of bamboo containers and believes it is best to avoid them.
At first glance, bamboo-based containers seem to be a good choice for environmentally friendly consumers. According to data quoted by German consumers from the famous Stiftung Warentest Foundation, they are reusable, can replace disposable coffee cups, and generate 40,000 metric tons of waste every year in Germany alone.
However, the foundation found potentially hazardous chemicals in all 12 bamboo cups they tested. They also found that almost everyone made "false advertising promises" about their origins or their impact on the environment.
"Keep your hands away from the bamboo cup," a foundation representative said in an online article summarizing the results on Tuesday. They added that coffee drinkers should use reusable containers made of other materials.
Read more: Is there bamboo in my drink?
These cups are advertised as made of bamboo or bamboo fibers, but manufacturers often fail to mention that these fibers are actually ground into powder and then glued into the shape of the cup. It is worth noting that they all contain melamine resin, a glue made from formaldehyde and the organic compound melamine.
Melamine is suspected of causing damage to the bladder and kidneys, while formaldehyde can irritate the skin, respiratory organs, eyes, and even cause cancer through inhalation. Even so, Warentest claims that melamine resin is harmless as long as certain conditions are maintained, especially if products containing it are kept below 70 degrees Celsius (158 degrees Fahrenheit).
However, when used to hold coffee, the container is usually exposed to higher temperatures.
Researchers at Stiftung Warentest tested these cups by filling them with a slightly acidic liquid similar to coffee, and then keeping them at 70 degrees Celsius for two hours. Then they tested the chemicals in the liquid. This process is repeated seven times.
Experiments showed that seven of the cups released "very high levels" of melamine, and some of them also released large amounts of formaldehyde.
Only 1 of the 12 cups did not have "harmful chemical problems" and did not mislead customers. Although the Chicmic Cup also contains melamine resin, “it releases very few harmful chemicals,” a Warentest representative told DW.
When analyzing packaging and warning labels, the foundation also criticized the Zuperzozial brand for failing to warn consumers about the danger of microwave oven heating containers. This process can damage the material and cause it to release more chemicals. Another brand, Morgenheld, just advises buyers to avoid microwave ovens to increase durability.
Morgenheld also claimed that their products are "biodegradable", while Pandoo stated that "bamboo is a natural material and does not produce non-biodegradable waste." However, all tested containers are not truly biodegradable. . Warentest also criticized manufacturers for claiming that their products are recyclable because the only form of recycling is to burn them as fuel.
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