FTC To Retailers: Bamboo And Rayon Are Not The Same Thing

The FTC has sent warning letters to 78 companies about clothing and household products marketed as being made from bamboo. Many of the products were were allegedly made out of rayon that may or may not have originally been derived from bamboo. The offenders include huge names like Walmart, Land’s End, Kohl’s, The Gap, and Target.

“But wait,” you might say, “isn’t rayon a synthetic fabric made out of oil or something?” Not quite. Rayon is derived from plants originally, but is so processed that it’s not as environmentally friendly as plain old bamboo. Here’s how the FTC’s press release explains the difference:

Rayon is a man-made fiber created from the cellulose found in plants and trees and processed with harsh chemicals that release hazardous air pollution. Any plant or tree – including bamboo – could be used as the cellulose source, but the fiber that is created is rayon.

In other words, these companies advertising their rayon wares as renewable, green, and cuddly bamboo is something akin to illustrating a package of cookies and cream ice cream with a picture of wheat fields and advertising its whole-grain content. Sure, there’s flour in there somewhere, but there’s been so much processing since then that touting the grain content is sort of beyond the point by now.

FTC Warns 78 Retailers, Including Wal-Mart, Target, and Kmart, to Stop Labeling and Advertising Rayon Textile Products as “Bamboo” [FTC] (Thanks, Mark!)
List of Companies [FTC] (PDF)