The potential of Bamboo in German Woodworking Practices
This thesis was written as part of the Masters Programme in Sustainability Science and Policy at Maastricht University, the Netherlands. It addresses the difficulties of sustainable tropical wood and wood product supply with the long growth rate of timber and weak regulatory frameworks being a key barrier for its sustainable extraction. To meet the current demand for tropical timber, bamboo could be used as an alternative. Bamboo grows quickly and can be used for similar product production such as flooring and furniture.
To process bamboo in Europe, wood manufacturers need to have similar knowledge for the processing of bamboo as for the processing of timber. Since timber is dominating European markets, bamboo products should meet existing timber user and producer demands. Hence, the objective of the thesis was to analyze the potential of bamboo in German woodworking practices.
The thesis made use of Social Practice Theory (SPT), which puts practices at the center of the analysis. These are defined by interconnected elements; material, competences and meaning. To understand embedded practices, timber and bamboo manufacturers were interviewed. Desk research provided a solid background on bamboo and timber practices. Forty interviews were conducted with timber users at IKEA to understand their demands on timber products and their interests in the purchasing of bamboo products. Follow-up interviews were conducted with timber producers to understand their knowledge and experiences around bamboo.
The thesis illustrates that practices between bamboo and timber differ with contrasts in the mechanical properties of timber and bamboo. It is illustrated that there are similarities between the skills needed to process bamboo and timber. This only applies to bamboo boards. These are similar to timber boards and can be processed almost equally by German manufacturers. Key limitations to the enhanced use of bamboo boards are; limited design choices which differ to timber boards that have various designs. Due to the different designs, different feelings are associated with the materials. To create similar feelings, bamboo boards should be diversified.
In conclusion, bamboo currently seems to remain a niche product and a useful option next to other wood products in Germany. Lastly, the study recommends to diversify the type of bamboo boards available for woodworkers to introduce bamboo further into the German market. Key limitations of the study were limited time to interview more manufacturers and to apply SPT in-depth for both resources.
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